PDD Holdings' International Expansion: Can Temu Replicate Domestic Success Abroad?

With a $204.04 billion market cap, PDD Holdings Inc. (PDD) is a leading Chinese e-commerce company. It surpassed revenue and earnings consensus estimates for the first quarter of fiscal 2024, powered by its international marketplace, Temu, and increasing consumer interest in its flagship discount e-commerce platform, Pinduoduo.

For the first quarter that ended March 31, 2024, PDD’s revenues increased 130.7% year-over-year to $12 billion. That surpassed analyst estimates of $10.58 billion. Revenues from online marketing services and others were $5.88 billion, up 56% from the prior year’s quarter, and revenues from transaction services rose 327% year-over-year to $6.14 billion.

The discount e-commerce giant’s non-GAAP operating profit grew 237.4% from the prior year’s period to $3.95 billion. Further, PDD’s non-GAAP net income attributable to ordinary shares rose 202% from the year-ago value to $4.24 billion. It posted non-GAAP earnings per ADS of $2.86, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.43, and up year-over-year.

“In the first quarter, we continued our investment in key areas critical to our high-quality development strategy,” said Ms. Jun Liu, VP of Finance of PDD. “Rather than focusing on short-term results, we prioritize long-term value creation and remain committed to further deepening our investments in the future.”

During the quarter, PDD’s cash inflows from operating activities came in at $2.02 billion, an increase of 1,474% year-over-year, primarily due to a surge in net income. As of March 31, 2024, the company’s cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments stood at $33.50 billion.

“We are committed to offering a trustworthy shopping environment for our users around the world,” commented Mr. Lei Chen, PDD’s Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer. “We will keep focusing on growing our long-term intrinsic value through investing in initiatives that bring sustainable impacts to our communities.”

PDD has gained market share with highly competitive prices at home and abroad. Shares of PDD have surged more than 115% over the past year.

PDD Holdings’ exceptional financial performance in the first quarter is mainly fueled by solid user growth and sales at its global marketplace, Temu. Let’s analyze Temu’s potential to drive the company’s growth in international markets by examining the competitive landscape, regulatory hurdles, and strategic moves.

Strategic Initiatives

Temu, an online marketplace operated by PDD Holdings, sells a variety of products from fashion to household, primarily made in China, for rock-bottom prices. Temu’s business strategy focuses on attracting customers via competitive pricing, social buying, heavy advertising, and an immersive technological design. Its business model has allowed it to gain immense popularity since its launch in 2022 in China and overseas.

Temu platform went live in the U.S. in September 2022, offering products across more than 15 categories. It was the first major overseas push of PDD Holdings and expanded in several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

On January 17, 2024, Temu officially launched in South Africa, marking the 49th country the e-commerce marketplace had entered since 2022.

To drive robust growth in international markets, Temu has implemented several strategic initiatives. The cross-border e-commerce marketplace tailors its product selections to meet the preferences of local markets. It also collaborates with local suppliers, manufacturers, and logistics providers to ensure efficient operations, enhancing its market presence.

Moreover, Temu invests heavily in marketing to build brand awareness and attract customers, including digital advertising, social media campaigns, and localized promotional events. As per J.P. Morgan analysts, Temu invested around $1.7 billion in advertising in the past year, a figure anticipated to climb to $3 billion this year.

The international marketplace also utilizes advanced technologies to personalize shopping experiences, optimize product recommendations, and enhance customer service. Further, AI-driven insights help Temu in understanding evolving consumer preferences and trends.

Competitive Landscape

Temu faces fierce competition from established e-commerce rivals, including Shein, eBay, Alibaba Group’s (BABA) AliExpress, and Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) in the U.S. and other markets.

Moreover, PDD’s value-for-money positioning and the remarkable growth of its Temu marketplace have enabled the company to maintain its leadership position in China’s e-commerce market. PDD Holdings’ outstanding first-quarter results sparked a significant surge in its stock price, propelling its market capitalization past that of its competitor, Alibaba.

“We think Temu’s profitability will improve faster than previously estimated due to its introduction of the half consignment model, under which logistics costs will be borne by merchants,” Morningstar said in a note.

“We also believe PDD’s domestic platform will be able to defend its position given the strong consumer perception of its value-for-money positioning,” said Morningstar analyst Chelsey Tam, adding that PDD Holdings comes up top in their preferences, while JD.com and Alibaba are in second and third spots, respectively.

In line, Goldman Sachs increased PDD’s rating to “buy” from “neutral,” citing the company’s continued growth momentum in advertising revenue in the first quarter and Temu’s potential.

This stock upgrade comes “on the back of its adtech capabilities combined with China’s cost-competitive suppliers/merchants /supply chains alongside favorable risk-reward, with the current market cap implying no valuation ascribed to Temu,” stated Goldman Sachs analyst Ronald Keung.

According to Earnest Analytics, Temu had acquired approximately 17% of the U.S. online discount store market as of last November.

In addition to leading the Chinese e-commerce arena and successfully expanding into Western markets, Temu has overtaken Shein by staying at the top of shopping app rankings in Japan and South Korea for a longer period. The emerging e-commerce app is focused on selling cheap goods to international customers.

Regulatory Issues

Chinese e-commerce retailers have faced rising scrutiny on handling content on their platforms. On May 31, 2024, the European Union (EU) announced adding Temu to its list of platforms facing the bloc’s highest level of digital scrutiny. By September this year, the online marketplace must adhere to the DSA’s most strict rules and obligations, including assessing and mitigating “systemic risks.”

“Temu must put in place mitigation measures to address risks, such as the listing and sale of counterfeit goods, unsafe products, and items that infringe on intellectual property rights,” the EU, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm, said in a press release.

The company acknowledges the European Commission’s decision. “We are fully committed to adhering to the rules and regulations outlined by the DSA to ensure the safety, transparency, and protection of our users within the European Union,” PDD Holdings added.

Bottom Line

Established in 2022, Temu is PDD’s e-commerce marketplace aimed at expanding the company’s footprint beyond China. It has started entering international markets just in the past two years. And it has since grown in immense popularity by offering affordable products, ranging from apparel to home products, shipped down from China.

Since its initial launch in the U.S., Temu has rapidly expanded its operations to 49 countries, with South Africa being the latest. PDD’s value-for-money positioning and outstanding growth of its Temu platform have helped the company lead China’s e-commerce market.

The marketplace aims to replicate the company’s success in China by offering attractive deals and localized products to international customers. Temu’s unique business model focuses on attracting customers by offering products at prices below the industry norms, aggressive marketing, and technological innovation.

Although Temu faces stiff competition from established e-commerce rivals across America and other markets, it leverages strengths in PDD’s social commerce, cost-effective, efficient supply chain management, and competitive pricing to gain market and expand its global footprint.

PDD beat first-quarter 2024 revenue and earnings analyst estimates, primarily driven by significant growth of its international marketplace, Temu, and surging consumer interest in its flagship discount e-commerce platform, Pinduoduo.

This year, the company aims to deepen the execution of its high-quality development strategy, where it will put efforts into improving the overall consumer experience, strengthening supply chain capabilities, and fostering a healthy platform ecosystem.

Analysts expect PDD’s revenue and EPS for the second quarter (ending June 2024) to increase 93.1% and 92.9% year-over-year to $13.86 billion and $2.77, respectively. For the fiscal year 2024, the company’s revenue and EPS are expected to grow 66.3% and 82.5% year-over-year to $57.19 billion and $11.79, respectively.

Given PDD’s robust financial performance, accelerating profitability, and bright growth outlook primarily attributed to Temu’s successful international expansion, investors could consider buying this stock now.