Meituan will turn from profit to loss in 2021, with higher expenses such as rider costs and R & D expenses

In the post-epidemic era, Meituan (3690.HK) revenue has risen steadily. On March 25, Meituan released the fourth quarter and full year results of 2021. In 2021, the company’s revenue was 179.128 billion yuan (RMB, the same below), an increase of 56% year-on-year; the company lost 23.536 billion yuan during the year and 4.708 billion yuan in profit in the same period last year; the company’s adjusted net loss was 15.572 billion yuan, and the profit in the same period last year was 3.121 billion yuan.


Food and beverage takeaway is an important revenue business of Meituan, and the operating profit of this business in 2021 is 6.175 billion yuan; however, the policy requirements of "reasonable reduction of merchant service fees" and the corporate responsibility to improve the protection of riders’ rights and interests have also increased Meituan’s operating costs. The restaurant and wine travel business is a major source of profit for Meituan. In 2021, the operating profit of this business is 14.20 billion yuan.


However, the operating profits of the above two major businesses cannot offset the losses caused by the expansion of Meituan’s new business. Meituan’s new business, which mainly focuses on community group buying, shared travel, and instant shopping, has an operating loss of 38.40 billion yuan in 2021. At the same time, Meituan also continues to increase the company’s R & D investment, and the R & D expenditure in 2021 will reach 16.70 billion yuan.


2021 was an extraordinary year for Meituan, with the company’s performance turning from profit to loss. At the same time, Meituan’s anti-monopoly penalty was also settled and fined 3.442 billion yuan. Affected by policies and the general environment, Meituan’s share price declined as a whole in 2021, peaking at HK $460/share that year, and then fell below HK $300/share twice in July and November of that year. On December 31, 2021, it closed at HK $225.4/share. As of the close on March 25, Meituan closed at HK $135/share, down 8.16%.


"In 2021, despite the impact of the epidemic, we will still overcome difficulties and strive to provide hundreds of millions of consumers with reliable and convenient life services, help merchants use digital means to expand online operations, and help more entrepreneurs and employees achieve stable income," said Wang Xing, CEO of Meituan. "Meituan will unswervingly fulfill its platform responsibilities, unswervingly increase investment in technology, unswervingly continue to expand its business, and focus on the’retail + technology ‘strategy to deepen the Chinese market and create more value for merchants, users, riders and other ecological partners."


The profit of catering takeaway operation is 6.175 billion yuan, which enhances the protection of riders’ rights and interests


Under the pressure of repeated epidemics, Meituan’s food and beverage takeaway business continued to grow. The number of annual transaction users and the per capita transaction frequency in 2021 reached a record high. The peak of single-day orders broke through 50 million in August 2021 and reached a new high in December of that year. The number of transactions in the whole year reached 14.40 billion, an increase of 41.6% year-on-year.


In 2021, Meituan’s catering takeaway business will see significant growth in categories such as nighttime, milk tea, salad and light food. Supply growth effectively drove an increase in orders from medium and high-frequency users. Therefore, the number of annual transaction users of catering takeaway increased by 13% year-on-year, and the average transaction frequency of annual transaction users increased by 25% year-on-year.


In 2021, Meituan’s catering takeaway business transaction amount was 702.10 billion yuan, an increase of 43.6% year-on-year; revenue was 96.30 billion yuan, an increase of 45.3% year-on-year. Operating profit increased from 2.833 billion yuan in 2020 to 6.175 billion yuan in 2021, while operating profit margin increased from 4.3% to 6.4%.


The topic of takeaway merchant commissions has attracted much attention. In 2021, Meituan takeaway’s commission income (technical service fee) obtained through merchants was 28.547 billion yuan, 18.503 billion yuan in the same period of the previous year, an increase of 54.3% year-on-year; compared with the company’s catering takeaway transaction amount in 2021, the takeaway platform commission rate was about 4.1%.


However, the 2021 government work report proposed to "guide platform enterprises to reasonably reduce merchant service fees." Subsequently, the National Development and Reform Commission and other departments also issued the "Implementation Plan for Accelerating the Cultivation of New Consumption", proposing to guide online platforms such as takeout to rationally optimize the use of small and medium-sized enterprises. Merchants and individuals use the platform to operate commissions, commissions and other expenses, and use technology to empower operators to reduce costs and increase efficiency within the platform.


In 2021, Meituan takeaway and other platforms took the initiative to optimize the platform charging model and implement a pilot "rate transparency". At the same time, the protection of rider rights and interests is also a major responsibility of Meituan. In July of that year, Meituan established a takeaway rider service department. In 2021, Meituan held 136 rider talks.


The financial report shows that the vast majority of Meituan takeaway’s total revenue is rider delivery costs. In 2021, there are about 5.27 million riders who earn income on the Meituan platform. Meituan takeaway rider delivery costs were 68.183 billion, an increase of 38.3% year-on-year, accounting for 71% of Meituan’s total takeaway revenue.


In addition, the breakdown data of the financial report shows that in 2021, Meituan’s food and beverage distribution service revenue collected from merchants and users was 54.204 billion yuan, while the annual rider delivery cost was 68.183 billion yuan. The above data shows that Meituan’s annual direct subsidy for riders cost nearly 14 billion yuan.


The operating profit of the hotel is 14.20 billion yuan, and the operating loss of the new business is 38.40 billion yuan


In the post-epidemic era, Meituan’s store, hotel and tourism business has achieved steady growth. In 2021, Meituan’s store, hotel and tourism business revenue was 32.50 billion yuan, an increase of 53.1% year-on-year; operating profit increased from 8.181 billion yuan in 2020 to 14.193 billion yuan in 2021, while operating profit margin increased from 38.5% to 43.3%.


According to the financial report, Meituan’s 2021 store-to-store business transactions, transaction amounts and annual active merchants all hit record highs. Meituan has strengthened its penetration into lower-tier cities across the country. Categories such as leisure entertainment, fitness, elderly care services, medical care and pet services are growing strongly; while categories such as manual activities, recording studios, light and shadow interactive halls, and stress relief experience halls have become new consumer trends.


In terms of hotels and tourism, the number of hotel room nights in China will increase by 34.5% in 2021. In addition, Meituan has consolidated its competitive advantage in the low-star hotel sector, diverting offline users to online platforms to help more hotel merchants operate digitally. In the high-star hotel sector, high-star hotel room nights will account for more than 16.5% in 2021.


In 2021, Meituan continued to expand its investment in new businesses, especially commodity retail. In 2021, Meituan’s new business and other business revenue was 50.30 billion yuan, an increase of 84.4% year-on-year. The operating loss expanded from 10.90 billion yuan in 2020 to 38.40 billion yuan in 2021, and the operating loss ratio increased by 36.6 percentage points year-on-year.


Community group buying is the exploration direction of Meituan’s new business. In the second half of 2020, community group buying began a new round of industry competition. At that time, Internet companies such as Didi, Meituan, Pinduoduo, and others invested in the ante one after another. However, with the development of policies and markets, the community group buying industry will experience ups and downs in 2021. Orange Heart is preferred to face business shrinkage, and Jingxi is also reported to reduce staff and withdraw from the city.


At present, Meituan Preferred is relatively stable. According to the financial report, Meituan Preferred has achieved healthy growth thanks to clear policy guidance and a good market competition environment. The "next day pick-up" three-tier warehouse distribution logistics network system has covered most communities and rural areas in 30 provinces across the country. In the future, strict compliance with regulatory regulations will be the top priority, and we will continue to focus on balanced and high-quality growth.


Meituan flash sale exceeded 6.30 million in single-day orders in December 2021. On the supply side, it has expanded its product categories and established cooperation with more high-quality local stores. Flowers, supermarkets and convenience stores continue to maintain a high growth momentum. At the beginning of this year, 24-hour drug delivery service was launched. In 2021, Meituan market users and transaction amounts continue to increase.

High revenue and high investment, R & D expenses of 16.70 billion yuan


High revenue and high expenditure are the characteristics of Meituan’s performance in 2021. The company’s revenue hit a record high, and the operating profit turned from profit to loss, which also laid the foundation for future sustainable development to a certain extent. According to the financial report, Meituan’s R & D expenditure increased from 10.90 billion yuan in 2020 to 16.70 billion yuan in 2021, an increase of 53.1% year-on-year. The increase in employee welfare expenses was mainly due to business expansion.


On the other hand, Meituan has also increased investment in unmanned logistics research and development. Meituan drone has been in normal trial operation in Shenzhen for nearly a year, and has covered more than 8,000 households so far, completing 30,000 orders for real users. Meituan City Low-altitude Logistics Operation Demonstration Center has landed in Shanghai and will gradually cover the "3 km 15 minutes" low-altitude smart logistics network in East China.


In addition, Meituan automatic delivery has launched a low-speed instant delivery solution for outdoor scenes. As of December 2021, Meituan automatic delivery vehicle service has expanded to 20 communities in Shunyi District, Beijing, delivering nearly 190,000 orders, autonomous driving mileage over 700,000 kilometers, and daily delivery of more than 1,000 orders.


At the same time, the company’s overall operating costs also increased significantly. The cost of sales increased by 69.2% from 80.70 billion yuan in 2020 to 136.70 billion yuan in 2021, while the percentage of revenue increased by 6.0 percentage points to 76.3% year-on-year from 70.3%. The main reason is the increase in food delivery related costs, as well as the development and exploration of retail business and other new businesses.


In addition, the company’s sales and marketing expenses increased by 94.8% from $20.90 billion in 2020 to $40.70 billion in 2021, while the percentage of revenue increased by 4.5 percentage points year-on-year from 18.2% to 22.7%. Mainly due to the increase in promotion, advertising and user incentive expenses and employee benefits expenses. In addition, more employees were recruited to support the rapid growth of new businesses.


"Meituan’s development is closely related to the general environment of China’s economy, and it is also inseparable from the joint efforts of small and medium-sized businesses and related workers such as riders. We will continue to take high-quality and sustainable development as the company’s goal, and strive to drive consumption and industry transformation and upgrading, so that all relevant parties can benefit from it." Chen Shaohui, Meituan CFO, said: "Meituan will make long-term investment around the strategy of’retail + technology ‘, and through innovation and technology-driven, help more entrepreneurs and employees share the dividends of the digital economy."


Beijing News Shell Financial Reporter, Chen Weicheng, Editor, Song Yuting, Proofreader, Lu Qian