Gogoing for growth?

Posted in Aeronautical, Financials at 10:48 am by timfarrar

It seems that most if not all commentators have ignored Gogo’s Aug 14 S-1 amendment containing the company’s results for the first half of 2012, instead picking up on Gogo’s Aug 28 press release that Gogo has been approved to operate in Canada (which in fact according to Gogo’s SEC filing was actually approved back in mid July).

That’s a shame because the six month results are pretty fascinating: they show that in Q2 of 2012 Gogo’s take rate and (more significantly) the average revenue per passenger carried both fell compared to Q1. If the revenue per passenger carried does not grow after the price increases Gogo implemented during the second quarter of 2012, then this raises the question of whether we may already be close to the point at which Gogo’s average revenue per plane cannot be increased much further. In addition, Gogo’s average revenue per session fell from the previous year, despite the price rises. Gogo’s filing attributed the decline in revenue per session to more (lower revenue) sponsored sessions compared to the same period in 2011. However, this simply highlights that a major contributor to Gogo’s (rather modest) increase in take rates over the last year has been the growing use of sponsorships, which are counted as part of the “take rate” even when passengers do not pay anything to use the service.

The chart above shows how Gogo’s take rate has developed by quarter since its launch, and how much it has been driven by promotional activity, with take rates at an all time high during the Google promotion in Q4 2010, and falling quite sharply when there was very little promotional activity in Q2 2011. Q1 2012 saw another boost to take rates, again coinciding with high levels of sponsorship revenues.

Though there is clearly some underlying growth in the take rate, during the remainder of 2012 this is likely to be diluted by the increasing number of Gogo installations on regional jets (where usage is much lower than on longer flights) and the (more marginal?) deterrent effect of recent price increases. As a result, I now expect that barring some large scale sponsorship, Gogo take rates for 2012 as a whole are unlikely to exceed 6%, and if we only count paid usage by passengers, then the true take rate may remain below 5%.

That’s pretty scary given the $1B valuation supposedly being mooted for Gogo’s IPO and the $200M valuation put on Row44 in its recent fundraising transactions. Its also interesting that Gogo’s bankers insisted that their recent $135M loan should be secured against Gogo’s profitable Business Aviation subsidiary, with cashflows from that operation potentially devoted to pre-payments on the loan, so that their loan recovery would not depend solely on the success or otherwise of Gogo’s commercial aviation business.