Rocket Internet losses narrow at key start-ups in June quarter

Sales rose at clothing retailer Global Fashion Group, food-delivery start-up Foodpanda and home-furnishing business Westwing


Rocket overall lost $692.5 million in the first half, mainly because it wrote down its stake in the value of Global Fashion Group, the company said on 1 September. Photo: Reuers
Rocket overall lost $692.5 million in the first half, mainly because it wrote down its stake in the value of Global Fashion Group, the company said on 1 September. Photo: Reuers

Rocket Internet SE said losses narrowed at several of its key start-ups in the second quarter as chief executive officer Oliver Samwer seeks to prove he can turn at least three of them into profitable businesses by the end of next year.

Sales rose at clothing retailer Global Fashion Group, food-delivery start-up Foodpanda and home-furnishing business Westwing, while adjusted losses before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization narrowed, the company said in a statement on Thursday. Rocket overall lost €617 million ($692.5 million) in the first half, mainly because it wrote down its stake in the value of Global Fashion Group, the company said on 1 September.

“We’re very well progressing on our path to profitability,” chief financial officer Peter Kimpel said on a call with reporters. Rocket’s losses stand in contrast to the “stellar” operating development at Global Fashion Group, for example, he said.

Rocket, which holds dozens of start-ups in areas including food delivery, furniture and fashion, has seen its stock price cut in half since it went public in October 2014 as some of its investments faltered and others were slow to reduce losses. Analysts have criticized the company’s reporting for a lack of transparency and questioned its ability to wring profitable growth out of companies that operate in commodity sectors in unproven markets.

Also Read: The rise and fall of Rocket Internet in India

Rocket climbed 2.7% to €19.69 at 9:05am in Frankfurt, giving the company a market value of €3.3 billion.

Not every start-up managed to move closer to profitability. The loss at food-box delivery service HelloFresh, which last year shelved plans for an initial public offering, widened to €18.4 million in the second quarter from €13.7 million a year earlier. Sales surged 124% to €150.1 million.

HelloFresh’s losses are a reflection of its expansion into new markets in the past year, mainly the rollout in the US, Kimpel said. The business model “has been validated”, even though it’s newer than the restaurant meal delivery service offered by Delivery Hero and GrubHub Inc., Kimpel said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be expanding.”

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