【英语财经】Lex专栏:京东将考验投资者耐心 Lex_JD.com: cash and carry

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2014-5-15 06:42

小艾摘要: If JD.com is China’s Amazon, buy the shares when they float this month. Lots of them.In one sense, it is. Unlike Alibaba, the Chinese internet retailer does not just connect buyers and sellers. That ...
Lex_JD.com: cash and carry
If JD.com is China’s Amazon, buy the shares when they float this month. Lots of them.

In one sense, it is. Unlike Alibaba, the Chinese internet retailer does not just connect buyers and sellers. That would make it China’s eBay. JD.com owns its inventory and its distribution infrastructure. It is in a low margin, capitally intensive business – Amazon’s business, in short. The investment is significant. The company added 10,000 workers in distribution and customer service between December and March, for a total of more than 40,000. Order fulfilment costs eat up more than half of gross profits.

Further, JD has turned – for one year, at least – Amazon’s trick of generating cash when it is not making accounting profits. It had a $96m operating loss last year and generated $376m in free cash flow. The method will be familiar to Amazon watchers: get paid by your customers faster than you pay your suppliers. Faster growth in accounts payable than in accounts receivable accounted for almost $500m in cash flow last year.

This is part of the reason an unprofitable company can aim for an initial offering that values it at $23bn. As the company adds to sales (which grew 70 per cent in 2013) there will be operating leverage on the fixed cost of the infrastructure, widening margins. In the meantime, the company can fund its operations with negative working capital.

The cash may not flow smoothly. Remarkably for a company growing so quickly, capital expenditures grew only 12 per cent last year. That will accelerate. Note also that 2013 capex was under 2 per cent of sales. Amazon spent almost 5 per cent. More importantly, there is the question of whether the market will be as patient with JD.com as it has been with Amazon. Amazon was at JD.com’s revenue level eight years ago. It is still barely profitable and its shares trade at a multiple of sales (1.5) that JD would be happy to get. The market’s inexplicable deference allows Amazon to keep investing every spare dollar in growth. JD may not get the same leeway.

如果说京东(JD.com)是中国的亚马逊(Amazon),那么在它本月上市发行时应购入其股票。而且多多益善。

从某种意义上说,它确实是中国的亚马逊。与阿里巴巴(Alibaba)不同,这家中国互联网零售商所做的,不仅仅是将买卖双方联系到一起(那将是中国的eBay)。京东拥有自己的库存和配送基础设施。它置身于一种低利润率的资本密集型业务——简言之,就是亚马逊的业务。投资相当可观。12月至3月期间,该公司在配送和客服部门新增了1万名雇员,员工总人数超过4万人。订单履行成本吞噬其一半以上的毛利润。

此外,京东(至少这一年来)学会了亚马逊的技巧,有本事在没有会计利润的情况下产生现金。去年京东运管亏损9600万美元,却能产生3.76亿美元的自由现金流。亚马逊的观察者对这一方法并不陌生:收取客户付款的速度快过向供应商支付的速度。应付账款账户比应收账款账户增长更快,去年贡献了近5亿美元的现金流。

这是一家不盈利的企业有望在首次公开发行(IPO)中达到230亿美元估值的部分原因。随着该公司提高销售(2013年销售增长70%),而基础设施的成本固定不变,将会有经营杠杆效果,从而提高利润率。与此同时,该公司能够利用“负营运资本”提供运作资金。

现金流动可能会不畅。值得注意的是,一个增长如此迅速的公司,去年的资本支出增长只有12%。这会加速。还要注意的是,2013的资本支出不到销售额的2%。亚马逊支出近5%。更重要的问题是,市场是否会像对待亚马逊一样耐心对待京东?亚马逊8年前的营收水平和京东一样。它现在仍几乎没有盈利,而股价是销售额的1.5倍——京东将很高兴达到这样的股价/销售额比率。市场的莫名景仰使亚马逊得以持续将手头的每一美元投资于增长。京东未必能获得同等的宽容。

Lex专栏是由FT评论家联合撰写的短评,对全球经济与商业进行精辟分析

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