CFI Take: LeEco’s LeTV has been a major streaming player in China, but a recent cash crisis put the company’s future in jeopardy.Cash-strapped Chinese internet giant LeEco may be a bit calmer this week, as the company announced that it has completed the share transfer of its listed arm Leshi Internet to real estate titan Sunac China Holdings Ltd., local media is reporting (in Chinese).With the completion the share transfer formalities, LeEco has sold 171 million shares, or 8.56 percent of the arm’s total equity, for RMB 6.04 billion.This is just one of the three parts in an RMB 15 billion funding program by Sunac. According to the funding deal inked in January, Sunac has agreed to pay RMB 7.95 billion for a 15 percent stake in the company’s television unit Leshi Zhixin, and RMB 1.05 billion for 33.5 percent of film production unit Le Vision Pictures, in addition to this one.At an earnings conference (in Chinese) held on Tuesday, Sunac founder and chairman Sun Hongbin revealed Sunac has poured RMB 12.4 billion into LeEco so far. Sun maintained that LeEco is a great company with good prospects, and he cares more about a longer-term (three to five years) development in LeEco than its recent share price declines.In addition, Sun was upbeat about LeEco’s television business, claiming it is very valuable and better than Apple’s.
The Chinese internet giant, which saw its market value fall to RMB 65.81 billion (in Chinese) this March from a peak of RMB 150 billion, has been struggling with a cash squeeze after years of breakneck expansion.
Apart from smartphone and TV manufacturing, it has expanded into the film and television production, music, gaming, electric vehicle and sports industry. Its operating income doesn’t come close to the cash burn rates, despite numerous funding rounds it secured. It has resorted to every possible means to get financing, which was estimated to top RMB 80 billion (in Chinese), ranging from share pledges, private placements, debt issuance, to venture capital and private equity funding.
While the huge investments would give the beleaguered internet giant a brief respite, concerns grow that such tweaks may not be able to help LeEco turn the whole game around, given the bloated size of the company’s business lines and money-burners such as the purchases of video and film content as well as R&D in self-driving electric vehicles. The revival of its rivals in smartphone and television arena also casts a shadow over the company’s profit prospects in such areas.
— This article originally appeared on TechNode.