Chinese social network giant Weibo continues its strong comeback in the quarter ended on September 30th. The company, once touted as China’s Twitter, recorded $101.1 million net income from this period, growing 215% year-on-year. Total revenues were $320 million, out of which $276.8 had come from advertising and marketing, taking up 86% of its total revenues.
In the past few years, Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces have been a major source of revenues for Weibo. When the Chinese e-commerce behemoth first purchased 18% stakes in Weibo back in April 2013, it promised to bring at least $294 million in revenues to the social network. The deal was widely regarded a win-win situation for the two, for the traffic Alibaba brings to Weibo would in turn lead back to sales on Alibaba’s e-commerce. Alibaba did its job: From 2013 to 2015, Alibaba’s e-commerce advertisers brought in over $300 million in advertising and marketing revenues.
Last September, Alibaba increased its stake in Weibo to 31.5% to become the second largest shareholder after Weibo’s parent company Sina; meanwhile Weibo has gradually grown less reliant on Alibaba, whose revenue contribution dropped from 30% in 2015 to 8.8% in 2016. Taking over are small and medium-sized enterprises and key accounts, which accounted for 78.6% of Weibo’s Q3 revenues.
Weibo’s surge in growth from the last few quarters has impressed Wall Street. This is mainly achieved by pivoting from a elitist, urbanite focus (like Twitter does) to a lower-tier city strategy. The social network has seized this population by pre-loading its app into low-end smartphone partners, as well as deploying short video and live broadcasting features—the two areas driving user engagement and advertising revenues. From 2015 to 2016, Weibo’s monthly active users grew 66.2% to 312 million (in Chinese) and in August, its valuation hit $20 billion (in Chinese) for the first time.
On October 24th, Weibo announced to raise $700 million in convertible senior notes, part of which will be used for “potential acquisitions of complementary businesses”. These acquisitions are likely to be in content and media, given they are currently Weibo’s strong revenue drivers.