Chegg announces appointment of new Chief Financial Officer, David Longo, effective February 21, 2024
SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Chegg, Inc. (NYSE:CHGG), the leading student-first connected learning platform, today reported financial results for the three and twelve months ended December 31, 2023.
“It’s an exciting time at Chegg and I am proud of the team, and how they have navigated through last year, as we completely reinvented the company by leveraging the advancements in artificial intelligence,” said Dan Rosensweig, CEO and President of Chegg, Inc. “The process of embedding AI into every facet of Chegg’s platform is ongoing and iterative, as we build a truly personalized learning assistant.”
Q4 2023 Highlights:
- Total Net Revenues of $188.0 million, a decrease of 8% year-over-year
- Subscription Services Revenues of $166.3 million, or 88% of total net revenues, a decrease of 6% year-over-year
- Gross Margin of 76%
- Non-GAAP Gross Margin of 78%
- Net Income was $9.7 million
- Non-GAAP Net Income was $42.7 million
- Adjusted EBITDA was $66.2 million
- 4.6 million Subscription Services subscribers, a decrease of 9% year-over-year
Full Year 2023 Highlights:
- Total Net Revenues of $716.3 million, a decrease of 7% year-over-year
- Subscription Services Revenues of $640.5 million, or 89% of total net revenues, a decrease of 5% year-over-year
- Gross Margin of 68% driven lower by a one-time content and related assets charge of $38.2 million
- Non-GAAP Gross Margin of 76%
- Net Income was $18.2 million
- Non-GAAP Net Income was $141.8 million
- Adjusted EBITDA was $222.4 million
- 7.7 million Subscription Services subscribers, a decrease of 6% year-over-year
Total net revenues include revenues from Subscription Services and Skills and Other. Subscription Services includes revenues from our Chegg Study Pack, Chegg Study, Chegg Writing, Chegg Math, and Busuu offerings. Skills and Other includes revenues from Chegg Skills, Advertising, and any other revenues not included in Subscription Services.
For more information about non-GAAP net income and adjusted EBITDA, and a reconciliation of non-GAAP net income to net income, and adjusted EBITDA to net income, see the sections of this press release titled “Use of Non-GAAP Measures,” “Reconciliation of Net Income to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA,” and “Reconciliation of GAAP to Non-GAAP Financial Measures.”
First Quarter 2024
- Total Net Revenues in the range of $173 million to $175 million
- Subscription Services Revenues in the range of $155 million to $157 million
- Gross Margin between 73% and 74%
- Adjusted EBITDA in the range of $43 million to $45 million
For more information about the use of forward-looking non-GAAP measures, a reconciliation of forward-looking net loss to EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter 2024, see the below sections of the press release titled “Use of Non-GAAP Measures,” and “Reconciliation of Forward-Looking Net Loss to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA.”
An updated investor presentation and an investor data sheet can be found on Chegg’s Investor Relations website http://investor.chegg.com.
Prepared Remarks – Dan Rosensweig, CEO Chegg, Inc.
Thank you, Tracey, and welcome everyone to our 2023 Q4 earnings call. To start, I am pleased to announce the appointment of David Longo as our new Chief Financial Officer, effective February 21st, as Andy announced on the last call that he will be retiring. David has been our Chief Accounting Officer and Corporate Controller since coming to Chegg in 2021 and we look forward to his continued leadership in this new role. He is joining us on this call today, so welcome, David.
Now, back to the business at hand. Chegg had a good quarter and exceeded our expectations. The last few years we have seen real challenges as we navigate the post-COVID world. Despite those challenges, it’s actually an exciting time at Chegg and I am proud of the team, and how they are navigating the complete reinvention of our company, leveraging the advancements in artificial intelligence and making it core to everything we do. In less than a year, we redesigned our entire user experience, developed our own large language models, launched automated answering, built proprietary algorithms to optimize the quality and accuracy of our exclusive content, and we began to compete more aggressively for new customers around the world. While early, our packaging, pricing, and product strategy are yielding encouraging results for both students and our business.
The process of embedding AI into every facet of Chegg’s platform is ongoing and iterative as we build a truly personalized learning assistant; a service that anticipates the students’ needs, adapts to their strengths and weaknesses, and supports them academically, professionally, and personally. There are numerous ways we intend to aggressively market our new product experience because the data tells us that, once a student tries us, they love us. Internationally, we focused our biggest effort on testing promotional pricing to convert the millions of students who have entered the funnel but did not yet subscribe. Additionally, we are building sharing into our service to increase word of mouth, expanding our presence on TikTok, and enhancing our SEO with increased questions from automated answers. Our business model benefits from more students asking more questions – as we index those questions in to search and other platforms – to drive even more customers.
Let me provide a little context. Since introducing automated answers in late December, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students asking new questions, as well as the number of questions per student. This is because our new automated service is delivering quality and accuracy almost immediately, which is a huge benefit to students. By building our own language models, along with our algorithms to check for quality, students can feel confident in what they are learning on Chegg and get support in real time. The impact has been immediate and significant. In January Chegg’s automated answers delivered more than 2.2 million solutions to students, which is 3 times the number of new questions asked and answered this time last year.
Importantly – as we scale – to ensure we meet our standards of accuracy and quality; we expect to launch the rest of our proprietary models by the end of Q1. These models are being trained on Chegg’s data and we are leveraging our 150 thousand subject matter experts to optimize our solutions for learning. In education, students cannot afford the illusion of accuracy to learn, they need it to be correct, immediate, and personalized. We believe this is what Chegg can uniquely do for students, and it’s a huge competitive advantage over generic AI models.
The overall benefit of our new service to students is enormous and there are also significant benefits to Chegg. As the hype of AI dies down, leaders in their verticals like Chegg are taking control of their own destiny by building their own models which allows for higher quality and lower cost. As an example, the cost to answer a new question using our own AI models is already more than 75% less expensive and we believe it will continue to decline over time. This means we will be able to serve more students at a lower cost per student, faster, and in more subjects and languages.
We are confident in the value of our new product and because of that confidence, and to be more competitive, we began testing promotional pricing in international markets in the middle of last year. We believed that if we could introduce our offering to more global learners, they would find the value and benefit of Chegg and continue to choose us and stay with us. In Q4, we saw year-over-year new customer growth outside of the U. S. for the first time in 2 years. And just as important for our business model, more of these users are taking the Chegg Study Pack, which is our higher priced subscription, and remaining paying customers for longer periods of time. We developed this pricing and packaging to be revenue neutral this year, while we expand new account growth substantially. While it is still early, we are seeing encouraging results. Given the success of what we’ve seen internationally, we are now testing promotional pricing for new accounts in the U.S. which began in mid-January.
As we have said, online learning support and skills-based learning are a huge market, and they are only getting bigger. AI is still in its infancy and our product roadmap is ambitious and exciting. Throughout 2024, we are introducing more AI-driven capabilities, such as conversational chat, which continues to layer in personalization and interactivity for our learners. We also plan to integrate personalized learning tools such as practice questions, flashcards, and study guides to our conversational learning experience. Looking beyond 2024, as AI automated translation gets better and cheaper, we plan to expand the localization of our offerings to non-English speaking users.
We also plan to build out more AI capabilities within Chegg Skills and integrate pathways for students with assessments and other tools. We are already seeing a reduction in the time it takes to launch new Skills programs by approximately 40%, which allows us to offer new courses at greater speeds and will significantly reduce our costs. And the importance of skills-based training has never been more critical. In fact, half of recent graduates are questioning how prepared they are to enter the workforce given the disruption of artificial intelligence. And employers agree, as 79% say that workers need more training to work with AI more effectively. So, the opportunity for Chegg Skills has never been greater or more important.
There are number of exciting opportunities ahead of us and in 2024 we remain focused on the following priorities;
- Returning to new account growth globally;
- Maintaining strong margins and cash flow;
- Rolling out the next phase of Chegg’s enhanced AI services;
- And leveraging our momentum in Skills for continued growth.
Every decade or so the pace of technological innovation accelerates, and new growth opportunities open up. The history of the internet has shown us that vertical players who know their customer, have reach, proprietary content, and can provide a personalized user experience will win and win big. Given the strength of our brand, with over 90% of our customers reporting they are satisfied with Chegg’s service, we believe we are well positioned to do just that in our sector.
Before I turn it over to Andy, I want to again thank him for all he has done for Chegg during his 12-and-a-half-year tenure. Under his guidance Chegg grew from a physical textbook rental business to a global, online, learning platform. When Andy took the job, Chegg was in debt, unprofitable, and we had a single business model – renting textbooks. Andy guided us through our transition to a fully digital business and, in doing so, grew our digital revenue from $0 to over $700 million annually. In his final full year as our CFO, Chegg generated $222 million in adjusted EBITDA and $173 million in free cash flow. Thank you isn’t enough to acknowledge the impact Andy has had on this company and on me personally. Andy, you leave quite the legacy at Chegg, and you will truly be missed. With that, I will turn it over to you, my friend.
Prepared Remarks – Andy Brown, CFO Chegg, Inc.
Thanks, Dan, for those kind words, but more importantly congratulations David, on a well-deserved promotion and I look forward to working with you as you transition into your new role over the next few weeks.
Today, I will discuss our financial performance for the fourth quarter and full year 2023, as well as our outlook for the first quarter of 2024.
As Dan mentioned, we ended the year on a positive note, with total revenue, adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow all coming in above the high end of our expectations. While the year had its challenges, we executed well on our plan to reinvent the way we help students navigate their learning experience by leveraging AI, and we continued to see strong profitability and cash flows. This, along with the strength of our balance sheet, gave us the confidence to extinguish a significant amount of our debt at a discount and repurchase shares, which we believe have, and will continue to, enhance shareholder value.
Looking more specifically at our 2023 performance, total revenue was $716 million, with Subscription Services declining 5% to $641 million. Total subscribers were 7.7 million, of which international subscribers were 2.0 million. Since 2021, international has increased from 11% of total revenue to 14% in 2023, or $100 million, and over time, we expect international to be even more significant. Skills and Other revenue of $76 million declined 20% year-over-year. While Skills grew 55%, this was offset by the impact from exiting the textbook business in 2022. We continued to take a prudent approach with expense management, and we were very pleased that we were able to deliver adjusted EBITDA margin of 31% or $222 million, and free cash flow margin of 24% or $173 million, which represented 78% of adjusted EBITDA. We expect interest income to contribute less in 2024 from a combination of lower interest rates and a lower cash balance, as a result of the aforementioned repurchases.
Looking at Q4, total revenue came in above the high end of our guidance at $188 million, which drove better than expected adjusted EBITDA of $66 million. Subscription Services revenue of $166 million declined 6% year over year, driven by a decline in subscribers, which was partially offset by the Chegg Study Pack take rate and a continued increase in retention. Skills and Other revenue of $22 million declined 22%, as growth in skills was offset by the impact of exiting the textbook business.
Looking at the balance sheet, we ended the year with cash and investments of $580 million and net debt of $20 million. This is the result of repurchasing $597 million of outstanding convertible notes during the year at a $92 million discount to par, and initiating an accelerated share repurchase or ASR in Q4 of $150 million, which reduces our outstanding shares by approximately 12%. We believe this prudent capital management will enhance shareholder value. We exited the year with 103 million shares outstanding, including the majority of the benefit from our most recent ASR. This represents a 19% reduction in shares outstanding versus 2022. We believe our company is undervalued, as such we will continue to look for opportunities to return value to our shareholders.
Our business is somewhat unique given our subscription model and the lifecycle of a student. While we are seeing encouraging signs in the business, it is too early to predict when we will return to revenue and margin growth. The green shoots in engagement, acquisitions, and retention will take time to build our renewal base before we see a positive impact on total subscribers and revenue. In the meantime, we will continue to be prudent with expense management and prioritization, while we continue to drive strong profitability and cash flows.
With respect to Q1 guidance we expect:
- Total revenue between $173 and $175 million, with Subscription Services revenue between $155 and $157 million;
- Gross margin to be in the range of 73 and 74 percent;
- And adjusted EBITDA between $43 and $45 million.
In closing, I am proud of what we have accomplished during my 12.5 years at Chegg. This is, by a large measure, the best company I have worked for during my career. The mission, the culture and especially the team, are second to none. I want to thank everyone who was with me on this journey. In particular, a special thanks to Dan, for your leadership, mentorship, and especially the friendship we have developed. It means more than words can say. Thank you. I can also say with confidence that the future is bright for Chegg, and as a long-term shareholder, I look forward to seeing the many future successes the team accomplishes.
With that, I’ll turn the call over to the operator for your questions.
Conference Call and Webcast Information
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Use of Investor Relations Website for Regulation FD Purposes
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Millions of people all around the world learn with Chegg. No matter your goal, level or style, Chegg helps you learn with confidence. We provide 24/7 on-demand support and our personalized learning assistant leverages the power of artificial intelligence, more than a hundred million pieces of proprietary content, as well as, a decade of learning insights. Our platform also helps learners build essential life and job skills to accelerate their path from learning to earning, and we work with companies to offer learning programs for their employees. Chegg is a publicly held company and trades on the NYSE under the symbol CHGG. For more information, visit www.chegg.com.
Use of Non-GAAP Measures
To supplement Chegg’s financial results presented in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (GAAP), this press release and the accompanying tables and the related earnings conference call contain non-GAAP financial measures, including adjusted EBITDA, non-GAAP cost of revenues, non-GAAP gross profit, non-GAAP gross margin, non-GAAP operating expenses, non-GAAP income from operations, non-GAAP net income, non-GAAP weighted average shares, non-GAAP net income per share, and free cash flow. For reconciliations of these non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures, please see the section of the accompanying tables titled, “Reconciliation of Net Income to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA,” “Reconciliation of GAAP to Non-GAAP Financial Measures,” “Reconciliation of Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities to Free Cash Flow,” and “Reconciliation of Forward-Looking Net Loss to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA.”
The presentation of these non-GAAP financial measures is not intended to be considered in isolation from, as a substitute for, or superior to, the financial information prepared and presented in accordance with GAAP, and may be different from non-GAAP financial measures used by other companies. Chegg defines (1) adjusted EBITDA as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, adjusted for print textbook depreciation expense and to exclude share-based compensation expense, other income (expense), net, acquisition-related compensation costs, content and related assets charge, restructuring charges, loss contingency, transitional logistic charges, and impairment of lease related assets; (2) non-GAAP cost of revenues as cost of revenues excluding content and related assets charge, amortization of intangible assets, share-based compensation expense, acquisition-related compensation costs, restructuring charges, and transitional logistic charges; (3) non-GAAP gross profit as gross profit excluding content and related assets charge, amortization of intangible assets, share-based compensation expense, acquisition-related compensation costs, restructuring charges, and transitional logistic charges; (4) non-GAAP gross margin is defined as non-GAAP gross profit divided by net revenues, (5) non-GAAP operating expenses as operating expenses excluding share-based compensation expense, amortization of intangible assets, acquisition-related compensation costs, content and related assets charge, restructuring charges, loss contingency, and impairment of lease related assets; (6) non-GAAP income from operations as income (loss) from operations excluding share-based compensation expense, amortization of intangible assets, acquisition-related compensation costs, content and related assets charge, restructuring charges, loss contingency, transitional logistic charges, and impairment of lease related assets; (7) non-GAAP net income as net income excluding share-based compensation expense, amortization of intangible assets, acquisition-related compensation costs, amortization of debt issuance costs, income tax effect of non-GAAP adjustments, the gain on early extinguishment of debt, content and related assets charge, restructuring charges, loss contingency, transitional logistic charges, realized loss on sale of investments, the tax benefit related to release of valuation allowance, and impairment of lease related assets; (8) non-GAAP weighted average shares outstanding as weighted average shares outstanding adjusted for the effect of outstanding stock plan activity and shares related to our convertible senior notes, to the extent such shares are not already included in our weighted average shares outstanding; (9) non-GAAP net income per share is defined as non-GAAP net income divided by non-GAAP weighted average shares outstanding; and (10) free cash flow as net cash provided by operating activities adjusted for purchases of property and equipment, purchases of textbooks and proceeds from disposition of textbooks. To the extent additional significant non-recurring items arise in the future, Chegg may consider whether to exclude such items in calculating the non-GAAP financial measures it uses.
Chegg believes that these non-GAAP financial measures, when taken together with the corresponding GAAP financial measures, provide meaningful supplemental information regarding Chegg’s performance by excluding items that may not be indicative of Chegg’s core business, operating results or future outlook. Chegg management uses these non-GAAP financial measures in assessing Chegg’s operating results, as well as when planning, forecasting and analyzing future periods and believes that such measures enhance investors’ overall understanding of our current financial performance. These non-GAAP financial measures also facilitate comparisons of Chegg’s performance to prior periods.
As presented in the “Reconciliation of Net Income to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA,” “Reconciliation of GAAP to Non-GAAP Financial Measures,” “Reconciliation of Forward-Looking Net Loss to EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA,” and “Reconciliation of Net Cash Provided by Operating Activities to Free Cash Flow,” tables below, each of the non-GAAP financial measures excludes one or more of the following items:
Share-based compensation expense
Share-based compensation expense is a non-cash expense that varies in amount from period to period and is dependent on market forces that are often beyond Chegg’s control. As a result, management excludes this item from Chegg’s internal operating forecasts and models.