Yatsen – IPO Note

I just skimmed the F1 of Yatsen Holding Limited (YSG.US). The stock is expected to list on NYSE on November 19th, 2020. I used to summarize S1/F1 but now I notice there are many participants doing similar stuff and even large part of broker’s PDIE deck is just a summary of F1 in PPT. Thus, I would just skip the duplicate work and only focus on what still stay in my mind. For underlying stories depicting what’s actually happening, check local news outlets or blogs.

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[November 11th, 2020 ]


Yatsen is a player with four brands (including a French brand acquired last month) in China beauty market currently focusing on color cosmetics and skincare category and Gen-Z & Millennium demographics.

Yatsen utilizes direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model supported by well developed e-commerce platforms, social & content platforms and ODM/OEM & packaging supply chain infrastructure in China. Yatsen is a pioneer in key opinion leader (KOL) marketing and maintains a KOL network which the company refers to as direct-to-KOL. DTC business model makes Yatsen know more about its customers’ behavior and preference thanks to data collection and analysis. Data can help the company from product development to supply chain management.

The company adopts an omni-channel strategy to acquire and retain consumers. While the majority sales come from DTC channels (online and offline), Yatsen still sells to e-commerce distributors such as JD.com and VIP.com (that’s it’s omni-channel). Not surprisingly, there’s “margin” difference between channels on the face value but I’m not sure exact contribution margin and ROIC between each channel.

Thesis – Growth Runway

Yatsen looks like a typical consumer company that successfully leverages internet trend to disrupt the industry. This is evidenced by Yatsen’s impressive growth since its inception in 2016. The company ranked No. 5 beauty company in China in terms of color cosmetics retail sales value in 2019.

Since Yatsen is a consumer product company in China, the first thing is to check macro drivers to make sure it has enough runway. Some “typical” macro drivers for China’s beauty market listed below:

  • Consumption upgrade will make per capital spending go up
  • Increased demand from lower-tier cities
  • Large Gen-Z and Millennials population
  • Domestic brands taking share from international brands

Growth strategies for a typical consumer product company:

  • Expansion on
    • Category
    • Demographic
    • Brand
    • Price point

Growth strategies for a more ambitious consumer product company:

  • Overseas expansion
  • Acquisition and then incubation

Only companies that have brand value can talk about pricing power. I believe it will take sometime for some of Yatsen’s brands to acquire that market position.

The rests such as DTC, omni-channel strategy, KOL, supply chain ecosystem, data analysis… are just means to stay relevant in this high growth market. I view these more like sources of weaknesses and threats rather than strengths and opportunities, let alone competitive advantage.

Here’s how I think about this bet: huge growth opportunity and everything depends on whether management’s execution can capture the opportunity, engage consumer, fend off competition, maintain bargaining power over suppliers in particular those KOLs… China consumption bet is relatively robust but hyper growth, fast IPO bet is riskier. Last hyper growth consumer product company comes in my mind is Luckin Coffee so this might depress the sentiment. However, I believe there are still many participants happy to bet on macro story and high growth.

Yatsen’s Quarterly Revenues

Investors that have indicated interest in subscription: Hillhouse, Tiger Global, and Tencent.

Yatsen’s disclosure isn’t enough for me to build a meaningful model but still need one to have a sense where it trades.


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