Coupang shifts to Q1 net loss amid competition from Chinese rivals

May 8, 2024

South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang Inc. said Wednesday it swung to a net loss in the first quarter amid growing challenges from Chinese rivals.

Coupang shifted to a net loss of 31.8 billion won (US$24 million) in the three months ended in March from a net profit of 116 billion won in the same period of last year, the company said in a statement.

The company inked a quarterly net loss for the first time in seven quarters after reporting a loss of 95.2 billion won in the second quarter of 2022.

Its operating profit plunged 61 percent to 53.1 billion won in the first quarter from 136.2 billion won a year ago, while sales rose 28 percent to 9.45 trillion won from 7.39 trillion won.

Coupang's delivery trucks (Yonhap)
Coupang’s delivery trucks (Yonhap)

In January, Coupang acquired British online luxury fashion retailer Farfetch Holdings in a deal that brings the New York-listed e-commerce firm the leading position in the $400 billion global personal luxury goods market.

The British firm has operated an online platform selling high-end fashion and jewelry, and it has been struggling with weak sales amid an economic slowdown.

Farfetch’s first-quarter sales of 382.5 billion won were reflected in Coupang’s quarterly results.

Starting April 13, Coupang raised its monthly WOW membership fee for paid users by 58 percent to 7,890 won from 4,990 won to secure further capital to cement its leading status in the competitive local delivery market.

“We continue to be focused on wowing our customers as we remain just single digit share of a massive and highly fragmented $560 billion commerce opportunity in Korea, and an even smaller share in Taiwan,” Coupang Chief Financial Officer Gaurav Anand said in the English statement.

Coupang’s new services, such as streaming platform Coupang Play and food delivery service Coupang Eats, have helped the company boost the number of users in South Korea.

But it faces tougher challenges from Chinese e-commerce retail platforms — PDD Holdings’ Temu and Alibaba Group’s AliExpress — which are wooing customers away from Coupang through aggressive marketing.

Coupang plans to invest 3 trillion won for the next three years to expand its renowned “rocket delivery” nationwide to cement its leading status in the competitive local delivery market.

A Coupang logistics center in South Korea (Yonhap)
A Coupang logistics center in South Korea (Yonhap)