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COMMENT: Serious Questions Raised Over Kogan “Wealth” and “Revenues”

Ruslan Kogan the CEO of Kogan.com brags about “micromanagement” and getting things “just right”, so why is it that so many journalist have got his wealth and revenue figures for kogan.com so wrong in the past. 

During an interview before a live audience for Startgrind.com Kogan some years ago he said “I cannot have the wrong message go out”.

He said that he had an anal attitude to “getting things right”.

See interview here.

However, a search of the internet reveals hundreds of stories about the alter ego Ruslan Kogan including several one on one interviews, where his so called wealth and revenue claims for Kogan.com don’t stack up where compared to the latest figures released to potential investors.

This is the same guy who claims that he often has to” corrects his own staff” over content issues on his own web site via emails at 3.00am in the morning.

Now Kogan is running around investment Companies, in the hope that he can raise capital for an IPO, he believes that his online Company has a bright future, hover some savvy investors don’t agree.

Dean Fergie a Director Cyan Investment Management said Kogan.com was a well-known website, but he passed because “on the financial metrics it didn’t stack up”.

“The bottom line profit in 2016 is going to be less than $1 million or $2 million, so it’s on a 150 times trailing PE,” Mr Fergie said.

“We think the valuation is quite excessive given the business doesn’t have a great history of profitability and we think the online landscape is becoming increasingly competitive.

Kogan had revenues of $200 million in the 2015 financial year (FY15) and is forecasting sales of $201 million in FY16 and $241 million in FY17. That’s a big jump in sales from FY16 to FY17 – often called a ‘hockey-stick’ forecast.

By comparison, JB Hi-Fi had sales of $3.7 billion in FY15 and expects FY16 sales to be around $3.9 billion. JB Hi Fi online sales were 2.4% of total sales, or $89 million.

Online sales at JB Hi Fi are rapidly growing and were 3% of total sales for FY16 up to the end of March 2016.

At that rate, online sales should be circa $117 million in FY16. So Kogan has higher online sales than JB Hi-Fi, but JB Hi-Fi’s online sales are growing faster (32%).

Harvey Norman had sales of just over $6 billion in FY15.

According to a recent prospectus put out by Kogan advisors, Kogan.com made a loss of $300,000 last year while this year he is forecasting a $400,000 profit.

There was also no mention of why Kogan had been forced to close down their UK web site after bragging about it’s success in the past.

Magically revenue is forecast to increase to $241.2 million for the 2017 financial year despite expected pressure from Aldi, JB Hi Fi, Winnings Appliances Online, Harvey Norman and The Good Guys, in that same period Amazon could launch in Australia in a move that some observers claim “could smash Kogan sales”.

EBITDA is forecast to jump 138 per cent to $6.9 million in 2017 and net profits are expected to rise six-fold to $2.5 million.

The prospectus also claims that Kogan.com has recorded positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for 10 years, with EBITDA forecast to come in at $6.9 million for the 2017 financial year.

Kogan.com will be selling approximately 28 million shares at a price of $1.80 each, with offers opening on the June 17.

The retailer plans to list on the Australian Securities Exchange by July with an expected market capitalisation of $168 million.

What is also not disclosed is whether the numbers in the prospectus are based on documents filed with the Australian tax office or the Australian Companies and Securities Commission.

Kogan and his business partner David Shafer will initially pocket around $15M from the inital capital raising.

Unlike Kogan, the 30-year-old, David Shafer has almost no public profile.

He rarely gives interviews and shows few tell-tale signs of extreme wealth. Despite this, BRW estimates his personal fortune at $75 million.

The big question that potential investors in Ruslan Kogan’s and David Shafer’s kogan.com business are now asking is ‘what information is actually right”.

Ruslan Kogan, the front man for the business suffers from verbal diarrhoea and loves to brag about his poor down trodden start in life and his sudden fame and wealth.

In 2010 Career Confessions did a one on one interview with Kogan who said that back then he had sold over 550,000 products directly to Australian and international customers through its websites, www.kogan.com and www.kogan.co.uk.

They also said that Kogan was set to record $150m+ in sales in 2011-2012 and remains one of Australia’s fastest growing companies.

This means that between 2012 and 2015 Kogan only managed to grow revenues by $50M or at best by $16M a year.

This is despite Kogan bragging to several journalists that he was already achieving $1M a day” revenues.

In October 2010 Ruslan Kogan appeared on the Channel 7 Sunrise show where the interviewer said that he was already worth $30M. Kogan made no attempt to correct the journalist.

In an interview with the ABC TV program Business Today, Kogan claims that “all” of his products are designed in Australia and then manufactured in China with components sourced by him.

See Interview Here.

Investigations by ChannelNews reveals that Kogan is buying off the shelf TV’s from two factories, Konka and MTC.

According to sources both these Chineae Companies that Kogan is buying TV’s from design and manufacture their “own TV’s” for house brand labelling.

Kogan who loves telling anyone who will listen that he founded kogan.com in 2006 in his parents’ garage, selling private-label televisions sourced directly from Chinese factories and smartphones and tablets sourced from grey markets has told StartGrind during his video interview that he deals with over 300 Chinese factories.

Tempo who supply Aldi and several leading retailers including Harvey Norman, Bunnings, JB Hi Fi with thousands of consumer electronics goods, as well as house brand goods and appliances, deals with less than 30 Chinese Companies and they have revenues of over $500M.

In an interview with Bloomberg in March 2016 the publication claims that Kogan had estimated this year’s revenue, 2016, would top $356 million which is $156M short of what his prospectus issued three months later revealed.

None of the claims made by Kogan have been corrected by publishers or by the micromanaging Ruslan Kogan who appears to be anal about “accuracy”.

Bloomberg also claimed that Kogan holds 80 percent of his private company and has a net worth north of $250 million, ranking him among Australia’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs.

David Shafer his CFO actually holds 30% of the shares in Kogan.com and after the float he and Kogan will own 69.2% of the Company.

Kogan and Shafer, who is the chief operating officer and chief financial officer, will be entitled to sell part of their combined 69 per cent stake 14 months after the IPO, and 50 per cent two years after the float.

But the big question is where did all of Kogan’s so called personal wealth come from and how did he let so many journalists report the wrong revenues for Kogan.com.

Kogan use to own a Company called Milan Direct but he sold out of this business last year to a Company called Temple & Webster who agreed to pay under $20 million in cash.

Milan Direct was established by Dean Rambler and Kogan. Kogan is believed to have pocketed less than $10M out of the deal and even then he may have had to pay Capital Gains Tax of over $1M.

The Company is believed to have only been making a “marginal” profit when sold to Temple & Webster.

In recent years kogan.com has expanded into general merchandise and services such as mobile and travel. It now claims to be the largest pure-play online retailer in Australia, with 52 million visitors to its website a year and 621,300 unique customers.

During an interview with Peter Munro at ExecutiveStyle, on Apr 8, 2012 Kogan claimed that his net worth back then was $62M, he reckoned that he had tried about 20 businesses – including web design and mobile phone repairs – before starting his namesake company in 2006.

Only 12 months earlier 2011, BRW reported that Kogan had a personal worth of $29 million, they even added him to their annual Young Rich List.

So where did the margin jump in worth come from as Kogan’s value is out of proportion to his personal wealth.
In its first full year of operation, Kogan turned over $250,000. The next year (2007-08) revenue had reached $3.7 million. In 2008-09, it climbed to $8 million and in 2009-10 topped $12 million.

Kogan’s partner David Shafer a lawyer told a banking publication that Kogan’s first quarter 2010-11 revenue was up 48 per cent.

Then in 2013 Ruslan Kogan told the AFR that he was fielding formal approaches for a potential stake in the business, in a bid to reach $2 billion turnover by 2017.

Kogan bragged that he planned to surpass the slowing consumer electronics business of Harvey Norman’s Gerry Harvey who privately described Kogan in terms I cannot describe in this story.

Kogan at the time said that the value of his Kogan business was more than $400 million.

By this stage his personal wealth had climbed to an estimated $145 million according to BRW’s 2012 Young Rich List.
What BRW did not disclose is where this sudden wealth came from or how they had calculated Kogan’s wealth as his business only managed $1.8M profit in the 2012-2013 financial year.

Priced at $1.80 a share, Kogan.com will have a market capitalisation of $168m on listing not the $400M that Kogan was bragging about back in 2013 to the AFR.

Kogan will retain about 50 per cent of the public company and Mr Shafer just under 20 per cent worth about $32m.

It’s also been revealed that investor funds will go towards paying down $4m in debt the company accrued over recent years.

Shafer who has played a key role in establishing Kogan’s unusual product financing model, whereby the money customers pay for some products is used to fund their manufacture and distribution.

“That is the reason we have been able to grow so substantially,” he says.

Shafer, claims that his wealth is tied up in the business, meaning his $75 million fortune remains in “paper form”.

He claims profits are consistently reinvested in the business and neither Kogan nor Shafer takes a wage. Shafer describes their remuneration arrangements as being on an “as needs” basis.

This means that in two years’ time that if Kogan.com fails to achieve growth and the shares tank as they have done with SurfStitch and Temple+Webster and as they did with Dick Smith, Kogan and Shafer’s personal wealth will also go in the same direction.

In the interests of full disclosure what ChannelNews would like to know is what is Mr Kogan’s actual worth is today. He loves throwing out challenges so I have one for him.

Why did you close down your UK operation?

What calculations are used to calculate his “Net Worth”?

How much property do you own?
What shareholdings do you own?
Do you operate any of your businesses via a Hong Kong or any other tax haven?

How much money do you and Mr Shafer expect to take out of the floated Company if any as salaries in 2017?

Did BRW get your personal wealth right in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and if so what were the numbers based on and what proof is there to support your personal wealth.