Sea launches investment arm, expects e-commerce sales to double in 2021

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Southeast Asian e-commerce and entertainment group Sea said on Tuesday it would launch an unit to manage its investments, as well as its own artificial intelligence labs.

FILE PHOTO: The building housing the office of e-commerce platform Shopee in Singapore February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Tim Chong

Called Sea Capital, the investment arm is the result of the acquisition of a Hong Kong-licensed global investment management firm and will launch with an initial $1 billion in capital.

It also announced it would build its own artificial intelligence labs to help develop the region’s digital economy, which is expected to exceed $300 billion by 2025, according to a report by Google, Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and business consultants Bain & Co.

The Singapore-headquartered firm announced on Tuesday its income under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) had reached US$1.6 billion for the last quarter of 2020 and US$4.4 billion for the full year, a 101% year-on-year increase.

Its net loss widened to $523.6 million from $283.8 million.

Sea has seen meteoric growth on the stock markets during the coronavirus pandemic as shoppers turned to the internet, with its market cap now at $126 billion.

Its e-commerce arm, Shopee, is the most popular shopping online platform in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. It is also active in Brazil and launched this week in Mexico.

Shopee reported $842.2 million in e-commerce revenues for the last three months of 2020. The firm said it foresees e-commerce sales doubling in 2021, revenues reaching between US$4.5 billion to US$4.7 billion.

The company also expects 38% growth for its entertainment arm, Garena, due to the continued success of its game, Free Fire, which was the most downloaded mobile game globally for 2020, according to App Annie.

Sea expects 2021 bookings for digital entertainment to be between $4.3 billion and $4.5 billion.

The Tencent-backed group, which has acquired banking licences in Indonesia and Singapore, is also increasing its fintech presence.

Sea said its mobile wallet total payment volume exceeded $2.9 billion for the fourth quarter and $7.8 billion for the full year of 2020.

Reporting by Fanny Potkin, editing by Louise Heavens