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Sea Ltd's group president Nick Nash to leave end 2018

The 39-year-old is believed to have plans to set up his own private equity firm

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Sea, which just reported deeper losses, has no immediate plans to fill the group president role.

Singapore

NICK Nash, the group president of Sea Limited, is set to exit the company at the end of 2018 to pursue a career in investment at a time when the company is floundering in deeper losses.

The 39-year-old - who has served as Sea's group president since December 2014 - is believed to have plans to set up his own private equity firm.

Until his departure, he will continue to advise the company's group chief executive officer, Forrest Li, on its long-term strategic priorities. The company has no immediate plans to fill the group president role.

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Sea, formerly known as Garena, is a Singapore-headquartered, New York-listed Internet company that offers digital entertainment, e-commerce and digital financial services.

A spokesman for Sea told The Business Times: "Nick has always had a passion for investing. His long-term plan is to return to his roots in investment to help support the next generation of technology and technology-enabled businesses in Asia."

Before joining Sea, Mr Nash served in various positions at General Atlantic, a New York-based growth equity firm and early investor in Sea.

Mr Nash has also stepped down from the company's board on Feb 23, 2018. On Feb 24, Sea's board elected Tony Tianyu Hou, chief financial officer of Sea, to serve as a director.

The Sea spokesman said: "This comes at a time when our IPO (initial public offering) has been completed and we are on a strong financial footing for our next phase of growth."

In October 2017, Sea began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in an IPO that raised US$884 million.

On Wednesday, Sea reported wider losses despite higher revenues for its fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2017. Adjusted net loss for the quarter came up to US$251.6 million, more than four times that of US$62 million recorded a year ago, due mainly to investments in Sea's e-commerce business, Shopee.

The spokesman said: "Shopee is in very early stages of monetising, but has continued to deliver solid growth with a record gross merchandise value (GMV) of US$1.6 billion in Q4 2017 and 98.3 million gross orders.

"We have made good progress in monetisation in our biggest markets including Taiwan and Indonesia, and will continuously assess the market situation to determine when the markets are ripe for monetisation. We take a long-term view on Shopee, and will not pursue short-term monetisation in such a way that compromises long-term growth."

In Q4 2017, sales and marketing (S&M) expenses for Shopee more than tripled from US$44 million a year ago to US$135 million, accounting for 86.3 per cent of total S&M expenses.

The Sea spokesman said: "We seek to drive down S&M spend as a percentage of GMV. S&M spend as a percentage of GMV was about 8.5 per cent in Q4 2017, versus 9.7 per cent in Q3 2017. This is a clear sign that our Shopee S&M cost productivity is improving and that Shopee continues to enjoy operating leverage.

"We are investing for growth while optimising the efficiency of our investments. It's important to recognise that the region in which we operate (South-east Asia) offers significant growth opportunities but is still at an early stage of development so further investment is required."

For the quarter, Sea's total adjusted revenue rose by 72.8 per cent to US$164.5 million, boosted by higher revenues from all of its business segments: digital entertainment, e-commerce and digital financial services. Loss per share came up to 0.90 US cent for the quarter, compared to 0.42 cent a year ago.

The spokesman said: "Meanwhile, it should be noted that our largest business, our digital entertainment business, is highly profitable with an adjusted Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) margin of 37.1 per cent in Q4 2017, and generating strong growth with 59.2 per cent year-on-year adjusted revenue growth."