May 13, 2020 / 5:05 PM / 22 days ago

African e-commerce giant Jumia cuts costs, hopes for lockdown boost

LAGOS (Reuters) - Struggling e-commerce platform Jumia Technologies reported an almost 7 percent fall in first quarter revenue due to supply chain disruptions, particularly in China, but saw lower cash burn and signs that lockdowns were hastening a shift towards online shopping in Africa.

Jumia 4JMAy.DE(JMIA.N) was the first Africa-focused tech start-up to go public on the New York Stock Exchange and reached a market capitalisation of over $1.5 billion just days after it listed last April.

But the company has struggled to find its way, and its share price has tumbled some 90% from its peak a year ago. On Wednesday, its shares traded down around 24% from the previous close, at $3.98 at 1159 EST.

The results, which caught the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak on the African continent, showed the lowest losses in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in six quarters, at 35.6 million euros.

But revenue fell to 29.3 million euros. China is a a key supplier of electronics and mobile phones sold on the platform.

Still, during an earnings call on Wednesday, founders Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara said they saw opportunities amid the pandemic.

“We are seeing unprecedented demand to join the Jumia platform, especially for named brands,” Poignonnec said. “We believe those dynamics will help accelerate the shift towards online.”

The company has recently unveiled deals with major brands including Unilever (ULVR.L), Procter & Gamble (PG.N), Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L), Nestle (NESN.S), Carrefour (CARR.PA) in Algeria and grocery provider Twiga in Kenya.

The company is hoping virus containment measures as lockdowns ease will increase the allure of its business model, bypassing crowded shops and offering cashless payment.

Though it presented data showing a drop in items sold amid lockdowns in key markets including Nigeria and South Africa in March and into April, the company said figures in both markets had begun rebounding by the end of April.

In South Africa, a strict lockdown barred delivery of fashion items for several weeks, while in Nigeria, measures made it impossible for some vendors to access their inventory.

Revenue in Morocco and Tunisia increased by contrast, and sales were slightly higher on a group level by mid-April.

The figures also showed 28% orders growth, 77% year-on-year growth in transactions using its JumiaPay payment platform and gross profit per order climbing to 40 cents, up from breakeven a year ago.

Reporting by Libby George; Editing by Joe Bavier and Alexandra Hudson

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