Quickflix looks to acquire unnamed Chinese content company

Streaming company Quickflix has entered an MOU to acquire a Chinese TV and movie content company, just days after announcing a loss of 14 percent of its customer base in the second quarter of 2015.

Australian video-streaming company Quickflix has announced that it has entered a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with an as yet unnamed Chinese content company to consolidate both businesses and establish a global streaming company.

Quickflix said that it would acquire the Shanghai-headquartered company (PDF) -- which produces original content locally in China and internationally, and is also contracted to co-produce content in the United States -- subject to negotiations and due diligence.

Quickflix was placed in a trading halt on Thursday last week (PDF) "pending the release of an update regarding a potential corporate transaction with an international party, which may result in an acquisition".

"Beyond Australia and New Zealand, Quickflix is looking at global opportunities to exploit its streaming platform and capability. Quickflix is in advanced discussions with one party in particular, which may result in a corporate transaction," the company said in its Q2 results report, released on Friday afternoon.

On Monday morning, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) announced (PDF) that Quickflix had entered a voluntary suspension from trading its securities "pending release of an update regarding a potential corporate transaction with an international party which may result in an acquisition".

This was followed on Tuesday night by news (PDF) that conditions precedent to an attempted reseller agreement with pay-TV company Foxtel's streaming service Presto had not been met, with the agreement thereby terminated.

The Chinese acquisition was subsequently announced on Wednesday morning (PDF), less than a week after Quickflix announced its results for the second quarter of 2015 -- which revealed a 14 percent drop in customer base to 121,127 for the quarter, and a 13 percent quarter-on-quarter decrease in paying customers, to 107,969.

The streaming service had a net operating and investing cash outflow of AU$1.1 million, a 29 percent quarter-on-quarter drop, but an increase of 24 percent from the same period last year.

Revenue receipts from customers were AU$4.23 million, a drop of 19 percent on the same period a year ago.

Quickflix attributed its customer losses to the launch of Netflix in Australia and New Zealand, particularly because of its rival's deals with telcos Optus and iiNet to offer unmetered access to Netflix, as well as its free subscription trials.

"Quickflix paying customers declined by 13 percent in the June quarter, impacted by the unprecedented level of free trial promotions by competitors, including those associated with the official launch of Netflix in Australia and New Zealand. Pent-up demand for Netflix generated through media and other publicity ahead of its launch resulted in a spate of customers churning in April and May, and a challenging quarter overall for the company.

"When surveyed, over 95 percent of those customers churning from Quickflix in the quarter to try a competitor streaming service were opting for Netflix."

On Wednesday, Quickflix claimed that its new acquisition would "significantly" improve its results into the future, as well as adding to its customer base.

"The Shanghai-based company is profitable and generates free cash flow. Consolidation with Quickflix would result in the combined entity having a significantly improved financial outlook and ability to access further capital for growth," the streaming company said.

The Australian government announced plans in May to introduce the so-called Netflix Tax, which would mandate that foreign companies selling digital TV shows, music, books, films, and subscription services to Australian customers pay the country's 10 percent GST.

According to Treasurer Joe Hockey, this measure would raise AU$350 million over four years.

"Both [Treasurer Joe Hockey] and I have been quite consistent in our call in providing a level playing field for the provider of key services in Australia, whether they come from overseas or whether they're provided domestically, and this is an area that we've been working with international parters on, trying to get a good understanding of where Australia's tax system should be for the future, because we have a growing digital and e-commerce world, and the tax system needs to stay up with that game," Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

In addition to streaming companies such as Quickflix, Stan, and Presto, traditional subscription pay-TV services including Foxtel are competing with Netflix, with the latter unsurprisingly supporting the introduction of the Netflix Tax.

"The government's move to enforce GST for the supply of digital content services is the right one. The digital marketplace is an increasingly competitive space, and it's critical to ensure that all players that do business in Australia do so on a level field, with no one player advantaged through tax loopholes," Foxtel's group director of corporate affairs Bruce Meagher said in a statement in May.

"The introduction of this legislation will not only help to maintain consistency across the competitive landscape, but it will also ensure that Australia gets its due taxes from the companies that choose to do business here, which benefits all Australians."

Quickflix noted that it would provide a market update on its MOU by August 20.