China’s Huayi Bros. Marks Third Year of Losses, Despite Delivering the Highest Grossing Film of 2020
Art and Experience:
Huayi Brothers, China’s longest-standing privately-owned film studio, has notched its third consecutive year of losses despite producing the world’s highest grossing film in 2020, its annual report showed.
The company’s revenues for 2020 fell by 33% year-on-year to $232 million (RMB1.5 billion) while net losses hit $162 million (RMB1.05 billion). The figures continue a losing streak: In 2018, Huayi Brothers as a parent company incurred net losses of $181 million (RMB1.17 billion), and in 2019, of $615 million (RMB3.98 billion).
The firm’s 2020 troubles come despite its success with the war epic “The Eight Hundred,” which became the biggest film of the pandemic-stricken year thanks to a $450 million box office haul. Overall, Huayi Bros. content brought in revenues of $150 million (RMB970 million) last year, about 64% of the company’s total revenue. This was a significant rise over 2019, when its projects brought in just $48.6 million (RMB314 million), or 14% of total revenue. The 2019 figure was much smaller in large part because censorship concerns delayed the planned summer release of “The Eight Hundred” by a full 14 months.
Huayi Bros. keenly felt the impact of COVID-19 on the movie business last year. Overall, the company’s core business in the film and TV sector achieved revenues of $203 million (RMB1.31 billion), accounting for 87% of the company’s revenue, but marking a 39% decrease year-on-year. The pandemic shut down Chinese theaters across the country from January to July last year, preventing the release of countless titles.
Huayi’s core entertainment business is further divided into three sections: film and TV production, distribution and cinemas, and talent management. The pandemic brought the revenues of the firm’s distribution and cinemas businesses down 69% year-on-year to just $17.1 million (RMB111 million).
The company’s efforts in the “brand licensing and live entertainment” sector saw huge increases, however, growing more than 260% year-on-year to $19.3 million (RMB125 million).
Last week, Huayi also issued its financial report for the first quarter of 2021, which marked its first profitable quarter since Q4 of 2018, ten quarters ago. Quarterly revenue increased 74% year-on-year to $61.4 million (RMB397 million), and net profits hit $36.3 million (RMB235 million).
First quarter revenues flowed primarily from two main sectors: the film and TV entertainment businesses, with revenues up 76% year-on-year to $57.7 million (RMB373 million), and brand licensing and live entertainment, up 176% year-on-year to $2.55 million (RMB16.5 million).
While this may sound good on the surface, the deeper reality is weaker. Excluding non-recurring income in the first quarter, the company actually saw net losses of $11 million (RMB70.9 million) — less than first quarter 2020 losses of $17.6 million (RMB114 million), but losses all the same.
Huayi’s first quarter results include $47.2 million (RMB305 million) of non-recurring income. This was generated by sales of its equity stakes in Huayi Tencent Entertainment, Tencent Music, and Maoyan Entertainment. It also benefited from the reevaluation of the fair value of investment stakes in Huayi Tencent and the Hong Kong-headquartered digital marketing services firm Guru Online, which counts Huayi as its second-largest shareholder.
As of the end of March, Huayi Bros. had monetary resources of $132 million (RMB852 million) but short-term interest-accruing liabilities of $275 million (RMB1.78 billion) and long-term debts of $206 million (RMB1.33 billion). The firm appears to be continuing its strategy of deferring repayments on its short-term debts so as to ease other financial pressures.