P1.8B down the drain: Xurpas board suspends operations of Art of Click flop it bought from its white knight Wavemaker 5 years ago

P1.8B down the drain: Xurpas board suspends operations of Art of Click flop it bought from its white knight Wavemaker 5 years ago

Cash-strapped Xurpas has decided to suspend the operations of a loss-making Singaporean mobile advertising firm which it bought from venture capital firm Wavemaker Partners five years ago.

Based on its latest annual report released last week, Xurpas board, led by its founders Nico Jose S. Nolledo (chairman) and Wilfredo O. Racaza (director), approved the suspension of business operations of Art of Click in March 2020. Co-founder Raymond Racaza has quit the company but is still a major shareholder.

AOC is a Singaporean start-up firm established in 2011 that specializes in mobile marketing solutions for
advertisers, publishers, app developers, and other operators. Wavemaker invested $500,000 (P25 million) in AOC in 2013 and flipped it to Xurpas in October 2016.

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In an interview with Techinasiacom in five years ago, Wavemaker managing partner Paul Santos said: “Art of Click has made tremendous progress in just three years. With only (its seed round), it grew to deliver double-digit million dollar revenues at double-digit EBITDA margins. (This is proof that) seed stage investments in viable, fast-growth business-to-business (firms) in Southeast Asia can deliver venture-grade returns.”

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Xurpas has lost practically all of the P1.959 billion (cash and Xurpas shares) it poured into the IT flop app which boasted of having four billion impressions per month from its Asian markets (including South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong), North America and Europe.

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As early as 2018, Xurpas had already recognized an impairment loss of P144.86 million on AOC. A year later, Xurpas booked an impairment loss of P1.814 billion in 2019.

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Xurpas said AOC failed to implement most of its plan – better revenue mix focused on programmatic and branded consumer advertising; pivoting to a license model of its ad technology to other third parties in other territories; and massive cost cutting measures- which led to further erosion of its revenue base.

Despite getting burned from the AOC investment, Xurpas turned to Wavemaker’s general partners Frederick Manlunas, James Jordan, and Santos as its saviors.

In September 2020, Xurpas approved a P170.7 million takeover of Wavemaker Partners US. Xurpas will raise funds for the takeover by selling 48 percent of its shares to Wavemakers’ Manlunas, Jordan and Santos at 10 centavos per share.

But Xurpas’ deal with Wavemaker has been put in limbo after the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) deemed the transaction a backdoor listing. The PSE decided to suspend trading on Xurpas shares until itprovided more information and insight on the impact of the reverse backdoor listing on Xurpas shareholders.

Xurpas last traded at 55 centavos per share on 18 September 2020. Its initial public offering price was pegged at P3.97 in December 2014 and reached a peak of P19.24 in April 2016.

Aside from AOC, Xurpas also booked impairment losses in Yondu Inc. (P337.39 million), Micro Benefits Limited (P188.23 million) Storm Technologies (P146.48 million), Xeleb Technologies (P68 million), MatchMe Pte. Ltd. (P63.58 million), Seer Technologies (P12.66 million), CTX Technologies (P4.73 million), Altitude Games Philippines
(P.21 million).

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