Pan-African e-commerce company Jumia got into the black (by a small amount) on its gross profit vs. fulfillment expenses, expanded financial services and still posted losses.
The online sales company, with an operations center in China, also anticipates some negative impact on 2020 growth from the coronavirus outbreak, CEO Sacha Poigonnec said.
These were highlights today for Jumia’s fourth-quarter and full-year results — 10 months after the company became the first vc-backed startup in Africa to go public on a major exchange.
Jumia — with online goods and services verticals in 11 countries — posted 2019 revenues of €160, representing growth of 24% over 2018. The company increased its annual active customer base in the fourth-quarter by 54%, to 6.1 million, from 4.0 million for the same period last year.
Jumia’s 2019 Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) — the total amount of goods sold over the period — contracted by 3% to €301 million in the fourth-quarter.
Poignonnec attributed the decline to “business mix re-balancing”, which entailed reducing expenditures on promotions. The company also saw a contraction in sales of phones and electronics, which impacted GMV.
The online retailer had a 49% increase in orders from 5.5 million in Q4 2018 to 8.3 million in Q4 2019.
Perhaps the brightest spot in Jumia’s 2019 performance was the company’s ability to reach a gross profit of €1.0 million after fulfillment expenses in Q4.
That obviously doesn’t get them to profitability over all the company’s other expenses, but fulfillment costs have been historically high for Jumia as an online-retailer in Africa.
The overall pattern of growing revenues and customers YoY has been consistent for Jumia.
But so too have the company’s losses, which widened 34% in 2019 to €227.9 million, compared to €169.7 million in 2018. Negative EBITDA for Q4 increased 5% to €51.2 million from €48.6 over the same period in 2018.
CEO Sacha Poignonnec pointed to Jumia’s ability in Q4 to reach positive gross-profit over fulfillment expenses — one of the company’s largest costs — as a sign it could eventually get into the black overall.
“As we reach these milestones we’ll bring new milestones. This year we were profitable after fulfillment expenses and one day we’ll be profitable after marketing [expenses] and so on and so forth,” he said.
Jumia exited several countries in 2019 — suspending e-commerce operations in Tanzania, Cameroon, and Rwanda. “We believe those countries have…potential in the long-term but decided to allocate our resources to the countries that best support our long-term growth and path to profitability,” said Poignonnec.
Jumia also saw lift in its JumiaPay digital finance product — and notably — is developing new financial services (including for SMEs) aided by its big financial investors, Mastercard and Axa.
Jumia launched an Axa money market fund product in Nigeria in 2019 and some promotional programs on Mastercard’s network, as noted in page 10 of its investor presentation.
Total payment volume on JumiaPay increased 57% year-over-year to €45.6 million in 2019 and JumiaPay was used for 29% of Jumia e-commerce orders.
This is significant, as the company has committed to generate more revenues from higher margin digital payment products and offer JumiaPay as a standalone service across Africa.
Since its founding in 2012, Jumia has been forced to adapt to slower digital payments integration in its core market Nigeria and allow cash-on-delivery payments, which are costly and more problematic than digital processing.
Poignonnec also acknowledged the company’s 2020 revenues could be negatively impacted by the coronavirus. “The recent…outbreak in China is likely to affect growth over the coming quarters, and here we are starting to face some challenges to fulfill our cross-border sales,” he said.
Surprisingly absent from Jumia’s earnings call (and the subsequent Q&A) was discussion of the company’s share price, which spiked then plummeted after its April 2019 NYSE listing.
The online retailer gained investor confidence out of the gate, more than doubling its $14.50 opening share price post IPO.
That lasted until May, when Jumia’s stock came under attack from short-seller Andrew Left, whose firm Citron Research issued a report accusing the company of fraud — which sent the company’s share price plummeting — from $49 to $26.
Then on its second-quarter earnings call in August, Jumia offered greater detail on the fraud perpetrated by some employees and agents of its JForce sales program.
The company declared the matter closed, but Jumia’s stock price plummeted more after the August earnings call (and sales-fraud disclosure), and has lingered in single-digit value for several months.
That’s 50% below the company’s IPO opening in April and 80% below its high.
For the remainder of 2020, bringing back growth in GMV and delivering more positive metrics, such as attaining gross profit after fulfillment expenses, could revive investor confidence in Jumia and its share price.
It could also put the company in a better position to match competition — such as the Marketplace Africa e-commerce platform of MallforAfrica and DHL — and possible expansion in Africa of China’s Alibaba.
With the funding, Flutterwave will invest in technology and business development to grow market share in existing operating countries, CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — told TechCrunch.
The company will also expand capabilities to offer more services around its payment products.
“We don’t just want to be a payment technology company, we have sector expertise around education, travel, gaming, e-commerce, fintech companies. They all use our expertise,” said GB.
That means Flutterwave will provide more solutions around the broader needs of its clients.
The Nigerian-founded startup’s main business is providing B2B payments services for companies operating in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.
Launched in 2016, Flutterwave allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber, Booking.com and e-commerce company Jumia.
In 2019, Flutterwave processed 107 million transactions worth $5.4 billion, according to company data.
Flutterwave did the payment integration for U.S. pop-star Cardi B’s 2019 performances in Nigeria and Ghana. Those are two of the countries in which the startup operates, in addition to South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, the U.K. and Rwanda.
“We want to scale in all those markets and be the payment processor of choice,” GB said.
The company will hire more business development staff and expand its developer team to create more sector expertise, according to GB.
“Our business goes beyond payments. People don’t want to just make payments, they want to do something,” he said. And Fluterwave aims to offer more capabilities toward what those clients want to do in Africa.
Olugbenga Agboola, aka GB
“If you are a charity that wants to raise money for cancer research in Ghana, or you want to sell online, or you’re Cardi B…who wants to do concerts in Africa…we want to be able to set up payments, write the code and create the platform for those needs,” GB explained.
That also means Flutterwave, which built its early client base across global companies, aims to serve smaller African businesses, including startups. Current customers include African-founded tech companies, such as moto ride-hail venture Max.ng.
The new round makes Flutterwave the payment provider for Worldpay in Africa.
In 2019, Worldpay was acquired for a reported $35 billion by FIS, a U.S. financial services provider. At the time of the purchase, it was projected the two companies would generate revenues of $12 billion annually, yet neither has notable presence in Africa.
Therein lies the benefit of collaborating with Flutterwave.
FIS’s Head of Ventures Joon Cho confirmed the partnership with TechCrunch. FIS also backed Flutterwave’s $35 million Series B. US VC firms Greycroft and eVentures led the round, with participation of Visa, Green Visor and African fund CRE Venture Capital.
Flutterwave’s latest funding brings the company’s total investment to $55 million and follows a year in which the fintech venture announced a series of weighty partnerships.
In July 2019, the startup joined forces with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba’s Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China.
Flutterwave’s $35 million round and latest partnership are among the reasons the startup has become a standout in Africa’s digital-finance landscape.
As a sector, fintech gains the bulk of dealflow and the majority of startup capital flowing to African startups annually. VC to Africa totaled $1.35 billion in 2019, according to WeeTracker’s latest stats.
While a number of payment startups and products have scaled — see Paga in Nigeria and M-Pesa in Kenya — the majority of the continent’s fintech companies are P2P in focus and segregated to one or two markets.
Flutterwave’s platform has served the increased B2B business payment needs spurred by the decade of growth and reform that has occurred in Africa’s core economies.
The value the startup has created is underscored not just by transactional volume the company generates, but the partnerships it has attracted.
A growing list of the masters of the payment universe — Visa, Alipay, Worldpay — have shown they need Flutterwave to do finance in Africa.