Sohu.com Earnings Call Insights: Advertising Rates and the Margin Trends

Sohu.com Inc (NASDAQ:SOHU) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Advertising Rates

Dick Wei – JPMorgan: If I just look at the portal business only, I wonder, how is the mobile usage impacting the PC traffic at the key verticals, for example, on News (BYD F8) or video, is there any difference? Also given the limited inventory on mobile, how should I be thinking about ad rate and ad revenue for the PC portal going forward?

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Charles Zhang – Chairman and CEO: So, let me answer the first part of the question. I think the mobile traffic for Sohu News and content had an indirect impact on the traffic on the PC platform. It’s by having higher awareness of Sohu’s content. More people will come back to PC, when they are – when their PC are nearby. So when they are using the PC, so it’s indirect, but we do have news and content improvement itself that – and also the improvement of its layout and its other channels that helped us to achieve a 25% growth on the frontpage of the Sohu traffic on the PC platform. Carol?

Carol Yu – Co-President and CFO: On the advertising rates. As usual increase our rate every two year, every two quarters, so we intend to do the same. On the video side, the increase will be a bit more dramatic, it could be north of 30% up to 50%.

Dick Wei – JPMorgan: So, this cannot much impact on the PC traffic. Maybe if you can share what is the percentage of mobile traffic now on the portal?

Charles Zhang – Chairman and CEO: We said the 25% on the frontpage doesn’t include the mobile traffic.

Carol Yu – Co-President and CFO: The 25% is an increase in UVs.

Dick Wei – JPMorgan: If you look at percentage of mobile traffic as total what would it look like?

Charles Zhang – Chairman and CEO: No, we didn’t give out the mobile traffic number.

The Margin Trends

Eddie Leung – Merrill Lynch: My question is more on the margin trend. If you could share more colors first on the margin trends of portal business in first quarter 2013. It seems like by deducting the forecast of Changyou, seems like the margins of portal would drop quite a bit in the first quarter, so besides normal seasonality there and the factor that we did watchful?

Carol Yu – Co-President and CFO: The increase in both cost of revenues as well, is maybe due to the additional bandwidth cost that comes with additional traffic, especially on the video side. Then the overall increase in OpEx is really related to headcount increase, compensation benefits across all business lines.

Eddie Leung – Merrill Lynch: Carol, can I have a follow-up question on your comment on the bandwidth cost? It seems like usually when we look at the bandwidth cost there could be some operating leverage into the following quarters, because usually portals with high bandwidth in house, right?

Carol Yu – Co-President and CFO: Yes and no. Our bandwidth is – the consumption rate is higher. So we do expect of course – we did say that we have secured the Voice of China. So, we will expect another big jump in bandwidth cost in the third quarter, when we see the traffic coming in from that very hit show.