Minds + Machines today reported a 2015 loss of $10 million and further outlined its “transformative” restructuring and China strategy.
It’s the second full year of operating results M+M has posted since its first new gTLDs went live, and they’re not encouraging.
Revenue for accounting purposes was $6.3 million, but the cost of sales was $6.2 million, leaving gross profit of just $101,000.
Factoring in $12.1 million of operating expenses, a $7.9 million gain from losing new gTLD auctions, and other expenses, the total loss before tax was $10 million.
That’s compared to the $22 million profit M+M reported for 2014, a number entirely reliant on $33.7 million of auction loss payments.
The company also reported its “billings”, a line item that does not use the accounting method of deferring revenue across the life of a domain and is therefore more in line with incoming cash.
Billings for 2015 were $7.9 million, compared to $5 million in 2014. Gross profit under that measure was $1.7 million, but the $12 million of operating costs still made the company very unprofitable.
Ignoring the auction benefits in 2015, which will not last forever, it’s pretty clear that M+M was a company spending much more operating new gTLDs than it was making from them.
COO/CFO Michael Salazar said in a statement:
However, billings of $7.9 million for the year were simply not of a sufficient scale to cover the associated cost of sales ($6.2 million) and operating expenses ($12.2 million), which combined reached $18.4 million for 2015. Similarly, the $0.6 million savings achieved in the period by the decisions mid-year to stream-line the existing operational set-up were not of a magnitude to have any material impact in the year under review. That said, forfeited cost of sales and operational expenses as a result of the 2015 cost-cutting decisions will amount to $2.7 million in 2016
It’s perhaps little wonder that activist shareholders, apparently not prepared to play the long game, threw out half of the board and key senior executives during the period.
Former PR man Toby Hall took over as CEO in February, replacing co-founder Anthony Van Couvering, and announced earlier this month that M+M is dumping its registrar and back-end registry businesses.
Its registrar customers have been sold to Uniregistry, and it will outsource its registry back-end to Nominet, to save costs.
Salazar said that the two deals will lead to $2 million in savings, but won’t be complete before the fourth quarter. It seems unlikely they’ll have a great impact on 2016 numbers.
Headcount has been reduced from a peak of 61 to 43 at the end of the year, and is expected to drop further to 25. Salazar said this will save it $4.7 million a year.
Even with these cost reductions, M+M will still need to essentially double its revenue in order to hit operating profitability, it seems.
The company is pinning some of its growth hopes on .vip, which it expects to do well in China. It launches May 18.
Hall said in a statement that M+M would not follow the lead of competitors (Famous Four Media springs to mind) by offering first-year registrations for free to build market share. He said:
Based on the enquiries received during Sunrise and feedback gained through our two recent marketing trips to China, it is clear that there is genuine interest in the domain both within and outside of China. As a result, we will not be using a year-one freemium approach to simply inflate year-one registrations. Instead, we intend to be keenly priced to ensure margin to ourselves — and registrations — as well as protect the integrity of the domain. The volume we anticipate to be generated through keen pricing will then support the sales of our premium names in this domain.
The company also plans to invest in its .law sales team, because billings for that gTLD have been behind expectations.
M+M had $34.6 million in the bank and eight outstanding contested new gTLD applications at the end of the year.