Vista Group International has "paused" the planned purchase of an additional stake in Vista China until the impact of the coronavirus crisis becomes clearer.
The cinema software company announced the freeze on the deal at the same time as announcing its annual net profit fell 1.5 per cent with revenue growth of 11 per cent. That was in the middle of guidance that was downgraded in August from 20 per cent previously.
Net profit for calendar 2019 came in at $12.8 million from $13m in 2018 while revenue rose to $144.5m from $130.7m.
The company's sales growth in the latest year is a slowdown from five consecutive years of 20 per cent-plus growth including the 23 per cent growth achieved in 2018.
Core revenue growth came in at 16 per cent, again in the middle of the guidance range.
Chief financial officer Matt Cawte said 2019 was the first time the company, which listed on NZX in August 2014, has failed to meet the targets required for its long-term incentive plan to kick in.
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were down 5 per cent at $31.3m on a like-for-like basis, Vista said.
But the company said its core business, supplying technology to 20-plus screens cinema complexes, improved market share outside of China to 51 per cent from 48 per cent in 2018.
It added 857 new sites in 2019, including 143 sites though the Chinese associate company, taking total sites to 8,059.
The company is in the process of converting its software into a cloud-based software-as-a-service offering and SaaS revenue now accounts for 33 per cent of the total – recurring revenue was steady at 61 per cent of the total following growth of $8m.
Vista is forecasting growth will continue at a lower pace, probably coming in between 13 per cent to 18 per cent in 2020, excluding China, and the company said it expects to maintain its ebitda margins.
In December, Vista announced it would lift its stake in Vista China to 62 per cent from 47.5 per cent currently by buying an additional 14.5 per cent from fellow shareholder Beijing Weying Technology Co and that it expected the transaction to settle in the first half of 2020 after gaining approvals from Chinese regulators.
The transaction valued Vista China at 500 million yuan, or $112.8m with the yuan at 4.4331 to the kiwi dollar, and last year's agreement followed protracted negotiations.
In August 2018, Vista paid $7.7m for a 7.9 per cent stake in the China venture which took its holding to 47.5 per cent.
"Due to the uncertainty around the impact of the coronavirus (covid-19), Vista Group initiated discussions with its partner in February 2020 that it intends to pause the transaction until the impact can be better assessed," the company said today.
Vista China's revenue fell 7 per cent to $19.2m in the latest year and it made a small ebitda loss, "significantly" less than the loss in 2018.
Chief executive Kimbal Riley told analysts on a conference call that cinemas in China are closed and he doesn't know when they will reopen.
The next major holidays in China are in May when it expects new movies to be released.
Vista is expecting China's government will provide support measures for the industry and there has already been some at the provincial level "and we would expect that to extend," Riley said.
Asked whether there is scope to vary the purchase price of the additional stake, Cawte said the company has no comment and that it's too early to tell how the coronavirus situation will develop.
Vista will pay a final dividend of 2.1 cents per share on Friday, March 27 to those on the register on March 13. That will take the annual payout to 3.3 cents per share, down from 3.7 cents for 2018.
Vista shares rose 3 per cent to $3.11 in early trading today. They have fallen about 31 per cent in the last 12 months.
The Cinema division's sales rose 17 per cent to $96.3m in the latest year with ebitda rising to $30.9m from $28.3m while the Movio marketing software unit lifted revenue 13 per cent to $25.7m with ebitda rising to $6.8m from $6.4m.
Other group companies, including Maccs distribution software, Numero box office reporting technology, marketing software Powster and movies review and showtime guide Flicks, lifted revenue 17 per cent to $17.6m and ebitda rose to $4.4m from $2.1m.
Vista's early stage investments revenue fell 36 per cent to $2.9m and made an ebitda loss of $1.3m.
The movieXchange platform was integrated into the Cinema business in the December quarter.