Product and Service
Companies included in online English education sector in education industry primarily provide interactive online English education platform for K-12 students mainly.
Demand for Product and Service
As our data indicates, growth in demand in China for Private after-school tutoring services, English-based test preparation class and tests, and profession training and class for the purpose of certificates has been increasing quickly in the past several years due to increasing competition in students’ academic performance, demand for proficiency of English, and increasing disposable income. However, there are signals indicating that years’ high efficient growth in revenue of many companies may have reached temporary maximum since 2017 or need a pause to wait for accumulation of more demand in undeveloped market/area.
Sector’s current, trend, causes behind trend, and future
Current and Trend
- Demand for private after-school (k-12) tutoring services in China has been increasing very quickly in the past several years as indicated by fast growth in k-12 enrollments in after school tutoring companies and languages school. The growth has been a result of increases in new successfully developed markets and as well existing markets. Competition has been increasingly intensive.
- Demand for professional training and preparation for certificates in IT and healthcare (present the fastest increase) and as well in accounting and engineering fields has grown quickly in the past several years as indicated by the increasing enrollments. However, it seems, to large extent, the increase has come from newly developed market, where demand obviously is not growing as fast as existing market and the significant fixed and staffing investment hurt margins. More data such as same center growth can help better assess sustainability of booming revenue.
- Demand for language and English-based test preparation and tests keeps strong and stable but the growth may be slowing down as market gets mature and slower than expected growth in demand from undeveloped market/areas.
- In most fields, the growth has been mostly driven by the increased enrolled students in small classes and online courses.
- Companies accelerate expanding the physical reach of their network under the competition pressure and to capture the increasing demand from undeveloped market, especially in smaller cities and areas. However, except for k-12 education programs, it seems that developing new market/city has not been successful, in terms of earning, for most of other programs including professional training and English (online) in 2017/18 due probably to economy scales of small cities.
Causes behind the trend
- Favourable demographic changes and increasing disposable income of household determine the base of the upward trend in private education business.
- Economy development and industrial demand for skilled professionals may be the major drivers behind booming of professional training.
- The increasing competition for better education resources among students may be the major driver behind more and more parents in China looking to private tutoring to improve the academic performance of their kids.
- Economy development and globalization help push the demand for language training.
- The general increase in disposable incomes across the country also makes it more profitable to expand business network into some smaller market.
- Recent decline in margin of many programs may be a result of competition for undeveloped areas.
There is a reason to believe that the upward trend will continue since the drivers behind the booming enrollment may exist for a long run. However, companies may have to experience a temporary pullback in their earning due to competition currently. K-12 focused private education and tutoring presents brighter future considering the base size of business. However, the uncertainty in the government’s policies and restriction on private education may be the risky factor in predicting those companies’ performance in a long run.
General Financial Performance of Companies In the Sector
Sales of companies in this sector (China market) seem to grow very quickly between 2015 and 2017 (100-200% annually based on a typical company data) primarily due to fast increase in revenue from k-12 students. This fast growth seems to have been slowing down since 2017 as indicated by increasing spending on marketing and sales with less growth in revenue. The reason may be due to competition with demand that may have reached a temporary maximum.
Due to the fast increase in revenue, which mainly come from high margin services, gross margins were improved firstly (a typical gross margin was 63% in 2017). Therefore, helped by the decreased SG&A as percentage of sales due to the leverage of increased revenues, companies’ operating margin got improved as well (A typical operating margin among those companies has gone up to about -67% from -180% about three years ago). However, as a result of increasing competition and market’s getting mature since 2017, we have seen increasing spending on marketing and sales but slower revenue growth. And this caused improvement of loss and cash flow even more slowly in 2018.
According to our analysis, the current companies’ enterprise price/sales ratio is 1.2 with an interest/EBITDA ratio of 0%.