FAST-GROWING FINTECH DRIVES 25% HIGHER GROUP PROFITS
- Revenue steady at R1.8 billion
- Digital revenue now 57% of group revenue
- Operating profit up 25% to R285 million
- Fintech revenue up 29% to R872 million
- Fintech operating profit up 44%
- Retail sales 26% lower at R594 million
- Group customers grew 14% to 1.7 million in the 6-month period
- Earnings per share and headline earnings per share steady at 143.7 cents
- Interim dividend declared of 70 cents per share, up 9%
Mauritius, 15 August 2023.
Fintech-focused digital consumer financial solutions group HomeChoice International plc (HIL) delivered a 25% growth in operating profit in the six months to 30 June 2023 in a challenging consumer environment. HIL’s fast-growing fintech business offers innovative financial services and retail products to over 1.7 million mobile-savvy, mass-market, mainly female customers in South Africa, as well as payments products through 2 570 retail partners with more than 5 900 points of presence country-wide. In the first half of the 2023 financial year, the group grew its customer base strongly, disbursed R2.4 billion of loans (up 12%), delivered Buy Now Pay Later Gross Merchant Value of R0.5 billion (up 149%), generated R594 million in retail sales (down 26%) and demonstrated its cash collection capability by collecting R3.9 billion from customers, up 17% year-on-year. Weaver Fintech delivered exceptionally robust growth and contributed 95% of group operating profit. This was offset by a disappointing performance in the Retail business, which was restricted by credit risk tightening and market challenges, resulting in flat group earnings and headline earnings per share.
Innovative products targeting the digitally savvy urban African women
The group’s digital-first businesses offer convenience and excellent customer experience, which has accelerated customer acquisition and driven retention and spend. More than 81% of the group’s transactions take place using digital channels, with on average 1.3 million digital users per month and App users growing rapidly year-on-year. Our broad, 24/7 digital offerings are loved by our customer base, who are 70% female and 60% Millennials and GenZ consumers. Customers have consistently rated the Fintech businesses with market-leading Google star ratings of 4.6 and 4.7 for FinChoice and PayJustNow, respectively. The highly scalable platform also delivers exceptional cost efficiencies with the direct cost per digital transaction having reduced by 56% in the past three and a half years.
Weaver Fintech delivers profits up 44%
Weaver Fintech delivered a strong performance, with revenue up 29% to R872 million and operating profit up 44% to R295 million. Weaver Fintech offers personal lending, insurance and value-added services digitally through FinChoice, as well as digital payment solutions through PayJustNow. Weaver Fintech grew its combined customer base by 28% to 1.2 million in the six-month period, translating into a growth of six times the original customer base since 2019. The large customer base is 97% digitally engaged. Tech innovation and hyper-personalisation through machine learning response models unlock customer product progression and excellent cross-selling opportunities, boding well for further growth ambitions. Increased scale, high levels of repeat business and a larger share of wallet per customer are also delivering increasingly more profitable growth.
Both businesses follow a conservative low-and-grow credit strategy, initially offering low-value credit on short terms that are increased for customers with a proven payment history. These automated digital credit strategies are supported by digital payments, significant repeat customer engagement and a track record of agility to rapidly respond to market conditions.
Advancing a broad and appealing product suite drives customer spend and provides income diversification. FinChoice’s high-growth, credit-backed MobiMoney digital wallet has paid out R4.8 billion since inception and now offers bill payments at 25 000 Zapper points of presence. Fee income now represents 33% of Weaver Fintech’s revenue. Funeral and personal accident insurance, an important driver of fee income, grew by 29% year-on-year.
PayJustNow’s appealing customer proposition has sustained rapid adoption by more than 900 000 customers in just over two years, with a 38% growth in signed-up customers and a 43% increase in the number of transactions in the 6-month period. PJN customers are all acquired digitally, and the high-yielding BNPL book’s average term has shortened from 46 to 43 days. Merchant partners enjoy significant value add in the form of a proprietary merchant app with real-time data and analytics, real-time refunds, and high brand awareness from customers, with the PJN store directory having provided 11.7 million referrals to date.
Retail’s trajectory hampered by market factors and stricter credit criteria
Load-shedding impacted all retail sales channels and the collapsed South Africa Post Office disrupted catalogue distribution which, combined with a constrained consumer and lower availability of credit, caused sales to decline by 26%. The weak rand and supply chain constraints contributed to a reduction in gross profit margin from 48.3% to 43.6%. Significantly lower debtor costs (down 34%) and lower trading expenses (down 3%) were insufficient to compensate for the lower sales, leading to operating profit decreasing by 60% to R15 million.
Substantial work has already been done in terms of the turnaround with a cost realignment and the implementation of a Smart fulfilment delivery system completed, which will improve the customer experience and deliver significant benefits in 2024. Increased focus is also being placed on innovation in offers and design, especially in the heritage textiles ranges, opening further showrooms and increasing cash sales.
Quality credit books, conservative credit provisioning and healthy cash flows
Weaver Fintech and Retail both tightened credit risk criteria and maintained prudent provision coverage in the challenging consumer environment. Weaver Fintech’s debtor costs only increased by 21% despite book growth of 28%, while debtor costs at Retail was significantly lower year-on-year, a function of lower sales and a smaller book, the acquisition of better-quality customers and stricter credit limits.
HIL’s trade and loans receivables books are highly cash generative with R3.9 billion of cash collected in the past six months off a R5.7 billion gross book. Cash utilised in operations was 86.5% lower through effective working capital management, prudent credit management and lower spend. The group has successfully increased its funding facilities to R3.0 billion and currently has R1.6 billion in cash and undrawn funding facilities to fund the continuing growth of Weaver Fintech.
Executive chair, Shirley Maltz, commented: “We are pleased with our financial performance in the tough macro environment. The benefits of our digital-first strategy are evident in our strong fintech performance. We are making good progress with growing our largely female customer base and are consistently improving our customers’ experience. We are excited by the tremendous potential that exists to broaden the Weaver Fintech product range across lending, payments and insurance, and the good momentum that is building in our cross-selling efforts within the sizeable fintech customer base. We have the vision as well as the funding to drive our growth ambitions.”
ABOUT THE HIL PLC GROUP
A fast-growing fintech-focused group providing digital consumer financial solutions and products to the mobile-savvy, mass market in South Africa, delighting more than 1.7 million customers across the group. Our customer is a digitally-savvy, predominantly urban-based African woman with 60% of our customers being Millennials or GenZ.
Through the FinChoice and PayJustNow brands, Weaver Fintech offers digital personal lending, payment solutions, value-added services and insurance products using innovative mobile-first platforms. Our omnichannel retailer, HomeChoice, delivers innovative, quality own brands and sought-after external brands across homeware categories. The online channel provides a convenient shopping experience on customers’ mobile phones.
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