The substantial increase in revenue and profit in the 2023 Second Interim for AGTech, with a revenue increase of no less than HK$237 million, is primarily due to the full consolidation of the financial statements of Macau Pass Group into AGTech’s financial statements for 2023 compared to the FY2022, contributing a revenue increase of about HK$106 million. Additionally, in Macau, the electronic payment, lifestyle services, and gaming and entertainment businesses benefited from the increase in tourists in Macau in 2023 and the Macau SAR government’s decision not to extend the exemption of transaction service fees for small and medium-sized enterprises from the end of February 2023, resulting in a year-on-year increase in revenue of no less than HK$68 million. Moreover, the steady growth of lottery hardware sales and lottery distribution businesses contributed to a year-on-year increase in revenue of no less than HK$60 million.
Overall, with the strong support of the electronic payment, lifestyle services, and gaming and entertainment businesses in Macau, coupled with the stable growth of the lottery businesses, the company is being driven to develop a diversified pattern of electronic payments, lottery, lifestyle services, gaming and entertainment, marketing technology services, and e-commerce. For AGTech, which was selected at the end of November 2023 to be included in the MSCI Global Micro Cap Index and is gradually becoming more well-known in the international capital market, this holds significant real-world and long-term strategic value.
Next, it would be worth conducting a detailed analysis of the above two main business sectors to further explore the commercial value and development prospects of AGTech’s business.
1. Electronic Payment Business: Strong Growth, Expanding Coverage, and Potential Sustained Benefits from Policy Support
Based on the Third Quarterly report published by AGTech in November 2023, AGTech’s electronic payment business, operated through Macau Pass, has significantly surpassed its lottery business in terms of proportion. The electronic payment business revenue has become a critical support and primary value driver for the continued growth of AGTech, achieved in just one and a half years. In my view, this rapid growth can be attributed to two main reasons:
Firstly, Macau Pass is accelerating strategic cooperation with Alibaba Group and Ant Group, who support AGTech, in e-commerce and digital media entertainment, gradually realizing cross-synergistic effects at the business and market levels. As a leading mobile payment electronic wallet in Macau, Macau Pass’ MPay Macau Wallet and Alipay+ launched a comprehensive innovative cross-border digital solution in 2023, striving to create a smart wallet for Macau residents for global travel, addressing overseas payment pain points, enhancing payment experiences, and facilitating global travel and safe consumption for Macau residents.
In February 2023, the company signed strategic cooperation agreements with Galaxy Entertainment, Damai, and Alibaba Pictures. Leveraging Macau Pass’ electronic payment convenience and inclusive development, the company aims more users through Galaxy Entertainment’s infrastructure resources, Damai’s online ticketing platform, and Alibaba Pictures’ full-industry chain entertainment platform. This move not only builds a larger user base for Macau Pass but also creates favorable conditions for the long-term development of its fee-based payment field.
B2B cooperation doesn’t stop there. In May 2023, Macau Pass and Samsung Electronics Hong Kong Company Limited signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation. Both parties agreed to use their respective resources, advantages, and experiences to cooperate in fields like electronic finance, e-commerce, marketing, development of a smart city and Internet of Things. They aim to achieve comprehensive interaction in digital finance, promote the construction of a smart city in Macau, provide high-quality products or services to users, and promote the development of the Hong Kong and Macau markets.
In November 2023, Macau Pass made a brilliant appearance at Macau’s first Asia Performance Entertainment Industry Expo. Centered in Macau, it gathered the strength of the cultural tourism and performance entertainment industry from across the Asia-Pacific, achieving high-quality integrated development of culture and tourism. The event empowered the sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific performance entertainment industry, promoting excellent cultural performances that reflect Chinese characteristics, embody the spirit of Macau, and contain Asia-Pacific wisdom to the world. This helps Macau connect with the global performing arts market, fostering innovation and cultural integration.
On the other hand, Macau Pass’ performance heavily depends on the prosperity of Macau’s economy. With the economy’s rebound in Macau, Macau Pass’ related business revenues naturally rose significantly.
Since January 2023, with the reopening of Hong Kong and Macau, the economy has rapidly recovered, especially with the rapid release of tourism demand, continuously reviving Macau’s tourism-led economy. Data from Government of Macao SAR Statistics and Census Service shows a significant rebound in Macau’s tourism industry in 2023, with over 28 million inbound visitors, a 3.9-fold increase year-over-year. The rise in tourist numbers further stimulated the growth of Macau’s retail industry. The “Macau Economic Quarterly 2023 Third Quarter” report by the Statistics and Census Service showed that in the third quarter of 2023, Macau’s service exports rose 284.1% year-over-year, total tourist consumption increased 576.7% year-over-year, driving a real growth of 116.1% in Macau’s total economy.
In August 2023, the “MGM x MPay Community Consumption Reward” event, co-launched by MGM and Macau Pass, was successfully held, stimulating community consumption through rewards, and attracting customers for small and medium-sized enterprises. Nearly 100,000 people participated in the event, and during the period, transactions for over 800 small and medium-sized businesses tripled, with more than 500 merchants seeing a more than twofold increase in transaction numbers. Leveraging the convenience and inclusiveness of Macau Pass’ electronic payment, the event achieved the goal of revitalizing community economies and precisely supporting small and medium enterprises.
On February 1, 2024, Macau Pass and Fliggy announced the launch of a co-branded card, which supports NFC function, two-way rechargable with mobile payment tools, landing at the “Galaxy Macau” luxury integrated resort. This new digital tourism consumption project will bring new business growth to Macau’s tourism enterprises, sharing the results of digital tourism and diversified development, further expanding its scope of imagination.
Looking further ahead, influenced by market potential and company strategic layout, the company’s electronic payment business development has immense potential. Under the promotion of Chinese government and Macau SAR government, favorable policies for electronic payments are frequently introduced. As early as 2021, the Macau SAR government launched the comprehensive payment system “Simple Pay” service, allowing Macau merchants to accept electronic payments through terminals, QR codes, and other forms. To stimulate local demand in Macau, the “Electronic Consumption Benefits Plan” was introduced to accelerate the popularization of electronic payments. Moreover, with the implementation of Macau’s “Second Five-Year Plan” (2021-2025), digital development in Macau is expected to advance further.
Additionally, the “Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area” explicitly proposes to jointly promote the interconnection of electronic payment systems in the Greater Bay Area. The cross-border connectivity of payment platforms and the popularization of electronic payments in retail and transportation scenarios not only drive the prosperity of cross-border payments and cultural tourism industries between Guangdong and Macau but will also further promote the integration of lifestyles in the Greater Bay Area.
Thus, the local mobile payment market in Macau has developed rapidly, with transaction numbers seeing significant growth. According to the Monetary Authority of Macau, mobile payment transactions in Macau increased from about 193 million in 2021 to about 266 million in 2022, a year-over-year increase of approximately 37.8%. The transaction value also grew from about MOP18.52 billion in 2021 to about MOP25.86 billion in 2022, a year-over-year increase of approximately 39.6%. Notably, the total transaction value and the number of mobile payment transactions both increased by 13% year-over-year in the first three quarters of 2023. The increase in transaction value and volume indicates a further expansion of user demand and trust in mobile payments, enhancing user stickiness, with a still vast market for mobile payments in Macau yet to be fully explored.
Focusing on the company level, since MPay under Macau Pass became the first overseas financial institution headquartered outside China to be authorized for cross-border use in Chinese Mainland in 2019, it has continued to expand MPay’s cross-border payment business coverage in the second half of 2023, in collaboration with Alipay+. It now covers more than 40 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, the UAE, Australia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, and announced the opening of MPay cross-border payments in Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong in September 2023.
On December 15, 2023, Macau Pass was approved to collaborate with seven major overseas electronic wallets, including Tinaba (Italy), OCBC and Changi Pay (Singapore), MyPB by Public Bank (Malaysia), Toss Pay and NAVER Pay (South Korea), and Hipay (Mongolia). Besides Alipay, AlipayHK, WeChat Pay, and Macau’s various banks’ “Simple Pay” electronic wallets, Macau Pass also supports South Korea’s Kakao Pay, the Philippines’ GCash, Malaysia’s Touch ‘n Go eWallet, and Thailand’s TrueMoney. With its innovative one-stop payment solutions, Macau Pass will accelerate the digital transformation of local merchants in Macau, creating an interconnected international payment digital ecosystem in the Macau market, solving international tourists’ cross-border payment pain points, and helping businesses discover new marketing growth opportunities.
It is foreseeable that as the number of countries covered by Macau Pass continues to increase, it will be able to provide convenient consumption services for Macau residents’ global travel, and also realize MPay’s one-stop payment service from local to cross-border consumption in Macau, thus creating a cross-border electronic payment ecosystem.
In 2024, the Macau SAR government will continue to adopt the “1+4” moderately diversified development strategy, promoting the construction of a world tourism and leisure center, and fostering the diversified development of tourism and leisure. Macau Pass will actively cooperate with the SAR government, using technology and intelligence to guide tourists’ dining, accommodation, travel, shopping, and entertainment in Macau, to stimulate community consumption vitality.
2. Lottery and Related Business: Steady Growth in Distribution, Expected to Continue Benefiting from Sports Event-Driven Momentum
AGTech has been involved in the lottery industry since early 2007, gradually developing into a business line primarily focused on lottery distribution, ancillary services, and lottery hardware sales.
According to the Third Quarterly report of 2023, from January to September, the company’s lottery hardware business revenue was about HK$103 million, an increase of 5.5% year-over-year. The company has been a leader in China’s sports lottery terminal market in recent years. Due to high policy barriers and considering the costs associated with product transitions, AGTech has a first-mover advantage in market competition. In the first nine months of 2023, AGTech won several lottery hardware tenders, including sports lottery centers in provinces such as Anhui, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan, Guizhou, Hainan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Fujian, and Guangdong. Relatively speaking, the income from lottery distribution and related businesses grew even more rapidly, recording about HK$62.89 million, an increase of 61.1% year-over-year.
Boosted by major events such as the Asian Games and the Women’s World Cup, and the launch of new instant lottery tickets, the national lottery market performed robustly in 2023. Data released by the Ministry of Finance of PRC shows that national lottery sales totaled RMB579.6 billion in 2023, a year-over-year increase of 36.5%. Among them, welfare lottery sales was RMB194.4 billion, up 31.3% year-over-year, and sports lottery sales was RMB385.2 billion, up 39.3% year-over-year.
In 2023, despite the economy performing below expectations, the lottery market was one of the few markets that grew against the trend, attracting considerable attention. Looking at the dynamics of major listed lottery companies, most are converging towards the middle and lower reaches of the industry, seeking lower-risk and lower-threshold returns. In such a competitive middle and lower market, lottery channels, distributions, and peripheral services have entered a new competitive stage.
Traditional operators must face new market conditions, such as changes in lottery buyers’ perceptions, the functions and forms of outlets, and increased competition with more entities entering the industry. In this context, the market is set to filter out operators who can better adapt to the new era’s pace.
AGTech, as a leading company in the lottery industry chain, has a precise grasp of the industry’s development rhythm.
On the one hand, the company domestically expands the physical lottery sales channels mainly operated by Alibaba Group for lottery distribution. Based on this, as of September 30, 2023, the number of company collaboration outlets increased by about 10% compared to the same period in 2022. The number of outlets and the average lottery sales volume both increased, driving a year-over-year increase of about 68% in revenue from retail outlet lottery distribution.
On the other hand, by providing lottery resource channel operations and platform services, the company achieves further user growth amidst fierce market competition. The company operates dedicated lottery resource channels on Taobao and Alipay, providing lottery-related services and resources, facilitating online users to access relevant information and resources, and meeting diverse lottery needs. Focusing on the business itself, although it does not conduct internet lottery sales, the platform enhances user stickiness and attracts new users, laying a solid user base for potential online lottery product distribution in the future, subject to policy authorization.
Considering the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games, UEFA European Championship, ongoing Asian Cup, and other top international sports events, historical data indicates that sports lottery, especially sports betting-type lottery, will be the main beneficiary. Data shows that during last year’s Qatar World Cup, the domestic lottery sales of PRC in November alone exceeded the level of the same period in 2018 by more than 120%, with sports lottery sales reaching RMB38.7 billion, a year-over-year increase of 94.6%. This means that the demand for sports lottery consumption will remain strong, and AGTech is likely to be a major beneficiary of event-driven momentum, achieving further growth.
In summary, based on the continuous recovery of Macau’s economy and the ongoing introduction of favorable policies, AGTech, with its strategic layout in international electronic payments, digital life entertainment, and lottery business, has promising future prospects.
From the continuously released policies promoting electronic payments and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as well as the organization of major events, almost every policy or significant market trend will empower the development of AGTech’s various businesses. As seen from the company’s continual introduction of innovative business layouts over the past year, AGTech is forging ahead, steadily releasing its competitive advantages. In the current broad market, AGTech’s long-term value potential remains to be further explored, with its energy extending far beyond.
The issuer is solely responsible for the content of this announcement.