Minds + Machines has outlined its plan to refocus its business on sales and marketing, which has already resulted in a couple dozen job losses, as the latest stage of its profit runway.
The new gTLD company also outlined plans to return about half of its cash reserves — mostly obtained by losing new gTLD auctions — to its shareholders.
For the first half of the year, the London-listed company reported an EBITDA loss of $1.2 million, compared to income of $5.7 million a year earlier, on revenue that was up to $3.6 million from $113,000 in the comparable 2014 period.
The company said it is “committed to achieving its stated goal of crossing over into profitability in 2016” and blamed high operating costs for the loss, but said it has been restructuring to help it return to profit.
M+M said its headcount has been reduced from 58 to 44, but that it has added ten jobs in sales and marketing, which seems to indicate at least 24 people recently lost their jobs.
The bottom line was also affected by the fact that most of the company’s cashflow to date has been generated by auction losses, and there were more of those last year than this.
The company hit three of its six “key performance indicator” targets — domains under management market share, premium sales growth and standard sales growth — but fell short of the other three.
Average revenue per name for premiums was $184 versus a $200-$225 target, and average revenue per standard name was down from $28 to $10, largely due to a deep discount promotion for .work domains. Higher prices for soon-to-launch .law could increase the average, M+M said.
The company also announced that it will spent £15 million ($23.1 million) of its cash reserves on a share buyback.
That’s almost half of the $48.3 million is has in the bank. This time last year, M+M’s share price peaked at 12p; it’s currently at 8.55p.
The price saw a spike in May, shortly before then-chairman Fred Krueger was asked to resign by the board. Krueger has since sold off the majority of his substantial shareholding, despite explicitly saying that he would not.
Minds + Machines secured loser fees totaling $3.5 million from its participation in .art and .data new gTLD auctions, the company disclosed today.
It seems .data was auctioned recently. It was a three-applicant string and none of the applicants have yet withdrawn their applications.
It seems either Donuts or brand applicant Dish DBS won the string.
The .art auction happened well over a month ago, with the final losing applicant withdrawing on July 23.
UK Creative Ideas won .art. Whatever it paid for the string would have been shared between nine competing applicants.
M+M also said that “strong interest” (presumably no sales yet) has been expressed in its $15,000+ “super premium” registry-reserved names, and that it has sold 20 premium names in its .london auction last month.
Brewing giant Carlsberg has joined Minds + Machines’ pioneer program for the .beer gTLD, buying 150 brand and generic .beer domains.
M+M said today that football.beer, which is arguably a more British domain than gov.uk, is among Carlsberg’s new portfolio.
The registry said in a press release: “football.beer will help support the company’s far-reaching commitment to the football. Carlsberg is a leading sponsor of UEFA EURO 2016, the Barclays Premier League, and Liverpool Football Club.”
The brewer will also use quality.beer in its marketing.
Trademarks baltika.beer, tuborg.beer, holsten.beer and kronenbourg.beer have also been acquired.
Carlsberg is the fifth-largest brewer in the world and fourth-largest in the UK, with annual global revenue of $9.5 billion.
The .beer gTLD could use the publicity. It has been in general availability since September last year. Today, it has fewer than 7,800 names in its zone file.
Minds + Machines has made its first six-figure new gTLD domain sale.
The domain net.work was sold in a private deal to business consultancy BearingPoint for $100,000, the company said today.
It added that a “significant annual renewal fee” applies.
It’s one of 430 premium domains to have been sold in .work, M+M said, since it went to general availability in February.
The gTLD had just shy of 55,000 domains in its zone file yesterday, recent growth partly attributable to a deep discounting program.
M+M’s registrar currently sells .work domains for less than $2.
Minds + Machines co-founder Fred Krueger has been kicked out of his job as executive chairman of the company.
The news came as the new gTLD registry reported its first full year of results as a proper, revenue-generating company.
The company reported revenue of $1.9 million for 2014, compared to $56,000 in 2013.
Its report includes a “cash revenue” line of $5 million, to show off revenues that it has deferred to future periods due to standard domain industry accounting.
For accounting purposes, M+M was profitable to the tune of $22 million for the year, but almost none of that is from actually selling domains — $33.7 million of profit came from losing new gTLD auctions.
That’s not a sustainable or predictable part of the business — nobody knows exactly when or if ICANN will launch the next round of new gTLDs — but it did help M+M grow its cash pile to $45.7 million.
That pile may grow or shrink depending on how aggressive the company is in its 11 remaining new gTLD contention set auctions.
CEO Antony Van Couvering said that M+M is also eyeing acquisition opportunities as the new gTLD industry enters an early consolidation phase.
He said that M+M’s early priorities include a focus on selling premium domains that have higher than usual annual renewal fees.
At the same time as announcing its results, the company said Krueger, who founded M+M with Van Couvering in 2009 in anticipation of the new gTLD program, has quit.
While he’s technically resigned, he left no doubt in his unusually frank resignation letter that he’s actually been forced out by the M+M board of directors.
He wrote that the decision was “initiated by the board” and that his “decision” to leave “was unexpected – for me at least”.
He added that he was “OK with it, indeed supportive of it” and that he has no intention to sell off his substantial stake in the company.
Krueger will now focus on Mozart, a web site building software maker that he’s been leading for the last couple of years. M+M has a deal to offer Mozart to its registrants.
He’s been replaced, albeit in a non-executive capacity, by Keith Teare, an existing director.
Teare is a tech veteran perhaps best known in the domain industry for launching and running RealNames, which attempted to replicate AOL Keywords for the Internet Explorer browser at the turn of the century.