IAC - InterActiveCorp 10-K 2005
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As filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 16, 2005
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF
Commission File No. 0-20570
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ý No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of the Registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. o
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is an accelerated filer (as defined in Exchange Act Rule 12b-2). Yes ý No o
As of February 10, 2005, the following shares of the Registrant's Common Stock were outstanding:
The aggregate market value of the voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant as of February 10, 2005 was $11,888,050,303. For the purpose of the foregoing calculation only, all directors and executive officers of the Registrant are assumed to be affiliates of the Registrant.
Documents Incorporated By Reference:
Portions of the Registrant's proxy statement for its 2005 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference into Part III herein.
IAC Brands and Businesses
IAC/InterActiveCorp operates leading and diversified businesses in sectors being transformed by the internet, online and offline... our mission is to harness the power of interactivity to make daily life easier and more productive for people all over the world. IAC currently operates a diversified portfolio of specialized and global brands in the travel, retailing, ticketing, personals, media, financial services, real estate and teleservices industries. IAC enables billions of dollars of consumer-direct transactions for products and services via the internet and telephone. IAC/InterActiveCorp is referred to herein as either IAC or the Company.
IAC consists of the following segments:
For information regarding the results of operations of these segments, as well as their respective contributions to IAC's consolidated results of operations, see "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" beginning on page 42 and the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes beginning on page 84.
On December 21, 2004, IAC announced its plan to separate into two independent public companies in order to better achieve certain strategic objectives of its various businesses. In this report, we refer to this transaction as the "Spin-Off" and to the new company that will hold the travel and travel-related businesses of IAC as "New Expedia." For additional information, see "Spin-Off."
Since its inception, the Company has transformed itself from a hybrid media/electronic retailing company into an interactive commerce company. The Company was incorporated in July 1986 in Delaware under the name Silver King Broadcasting Company, Inc., or Silver King, as a subsidiary of Home Shopping Network, Inc., or Home Shopping Network. On December 28, 1992, Home Shopping Network distributed the capital stock of Silver King to its stockholders. In December 1996, the Company completed mergers with Savoy Pictures Entertainment, Inc., or Savoy, and Home Shopping Network, with Savoy and Home Shopping Network becoming subsidiaries of Silver King. In connection
with these mergers, the Company changed its name from Silver King Broadcasting Company, Inc. to HSN, Inc.
The Company acquired a controlling interest in Ticketmaster Group, Inc. in 1997 (and the remaining interest in 1998). In 1998, upon the purchase of USA Networks and Studios USA from Universal Studios, Inc., or Universal, the Company became USA Networks, Inc. From 1999 through 2001, the Company invested in Hotel Reservations Network (later renamed Hotels.com), Match.com and other smaller e-commerce companies. In 2001, the Company sold USA Broadcasting to Univision Communications, Inc.
In February 2002, the Company acquired a controlling stake in Expedia. In May 2002, after contributing its entertainment assets to a joint venture controlled by Vivendi Universal, S.A., or Vivendi, the Company was renamed USA Interactive. In September 2002, the Company acquired Interval International.
In 2003, the Company acquired the minority interests in its formerly public subsidiaries, Expedia, Hotels.com, and Ticketmaster, and acquired a number of other companies, including Entertainment Publications, Inc., LendingTree and Hotwire. The Company was renamed InterActiveCorp in June 2003 and IAC/InterActiveCorp in July 2004.
On December 21, 2004, IAC announced its plans relating to the Spin-Off. Following the completion of the Spin-Off:
For a more detailed discussion concerning certain of the transactions described below, see Notes 3 and 4 to the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
leisure and casual apparel. This acquisition is expected to close, subject to the receipt of the requisite regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, during the second quarter of 2005.
IAC Local and Media Services
Financial Services and Real Estate
As of February 10, 2005, Liberty Media Corporation, or Liberty, through companies owned by Liberty and companies owned jointly by Liberty and Mr. Diller, Chairman and CEO of IAC, owned approximately 13.8% of IAC's outstanding Common Stock and approximately 79.2% of IAC's outstanding Class B Common Stock, and NBC Universal, Inc., or NBC Universal (successor in interest to Vivendi), through its subsidiaries, owned approximately 6.8% of IAC's outstanding Common Stock and 20.8% of IAC's outstanding Class B Common Stock. Assuming conversion of all of the outstanding shares of Class B Common Stock to Common Stock, as of February 10, 2005, Liberty would have owned approximately 19.8% of IAC's outstanding Common Stock and NBC Universal would have owned approximately 8.1% of IAC's outstanding Common Stock.
As of February 10, 2005, Mr. Diller (through companies owned jointly by Liberty and Mr. Diller, his own holdings and holdings of NBC Universal and Liberty, over which Mr. Diller generally has voting control pursuant to a shareholders agreement described below) controlled approximately 59.6% of the outstanding total voting power of IAC. As of February 10, 2005, there were 634,246,558 shares of IAC Common Stock, 64,629,996 shares of IAC Class B Common Stock and 13,118,182 shares of IAC Preferred Stock outstanding.
Subject to the terms of the Amended and Restated Stockholders Agreement, dated as of December 16, 2001, among Universal, Liberty, Mr. Diller and Vivendi, Mr. Diller is effectively able to control the outcome of nearly all matters submitted to a vote or for the consent of IAC's stockholders (other than with respect to the election by the holders of IAC Common Stock of 25% of the members of IAC's Board of Directors and certain matters as to which a separate class vote of the holders of IAC Common Stock or IAC Preferred Stock is required under Delaware law). In addition, pursuant to the Amended and Restated Governance Agreement, dated as of December 16, 2001, among IAC, Vivendi, Universal, Liberty and Mr. Diller, each of Mr. Diller and Liberty generally has the right to consent to
certain significant corporate actions transactions in the event that IAC's ratio of total debt to EBITDA, as defined therein, equals or exceeds four to one over a continuous 12-month period.
Subsequent to the date of the governance and stockholders agreements described above, General Electric and Vivendi created NBC Universal, and Vivendi contributed to NBC Universal Vivendi's ownership interests in Universal and in certain non-U.S. affiliates of Universal. As a result of that transaction, NBC Universal now controls Universal and is subject to the provisions of these agreements.
The following disclosure regarding IAC's businesses reflects the organization, operation and management of these businesses through December 31, 2004. As a result, this disclosure does not reflect how IAC's businesses will be organized, operated and managed following the completion of the Spin-Off. See "Spin-Off."
IAC Travel is among the world's leading travel services companies, making travel products and services available to leisure and corporate travelers in the United States and abroad through a diversified portfolio of brands, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Expedia Corporate Travel, Classic Custom Vacations and a range of other domestic and international brands and businesses.
IAC Travel brands and businesses make available a wide selection of travel products and services, from simple, discounted travel to more complex, luxury travel. IAC Travel's various brands and businesses target the needs of different consumers, including those who are focused exclusively on price and those who are focused on the breadth of product selection and quality of services. Through its differentiated brands and businesses, IAC Travel helps a broad range of leisure and corporate travelers research, plan and book travel.
IAC Travel makes available travel products and services primarily through its wholly-owned, branded websites, as well as through branded websites owned and operated by joint ventures and other companies in which IAC Travel has made investments. IAC Travel also makes available travel products and services through its private label program, through which it indirectly makes available travel products and services to customers through third party websites, as well as through traditional offline channels, including full service telephone booking agents, onsite travel agents working at various corporate customer locations and in-destination Expedia!fun travel desks. IAC Travel also includes Interval International, a leading membership services company providing timeshare exchange and other value-added programs to its timeshare-owning members worldwide.
IAC Travel makes its travel products and services available on a stand-alone and package basis primarily through two separate business models, the merchant model and agency model. See "Merchant and Agency Business Models." In 2004, merchant gross bookings and agency gross bookings were approximately $5.7 billion and $7.5 billion, respectively. IAC Travel also derives revenue from fees paid by members in connection with exchange and rental transactions and memberships through Interval International, as well as from advertising and promotional activities across its branded websites.
To ensure the success of its leisure and corporate travel businesses, IAC Travel has made substantial investments in technology and believes that innovation is a long-term competitive advantage, both in consumer- and supplier-oriented technology.
Portfolio of Brands and Businesses
IAC Travel has created an easily accessible global travel marketplace that is used by a broad range of leisure and corporate consumers and travel agents. This marketplace allows customers to research, plan and book travel products and services from travel suppliers and allows these travel suppliers to efficiently reach and provide their products and services to IAC Travel customers. Through its diversified portfolio of domestic and international brands and businesses, IAC Travel makes available, on a stand-alone and package basis, travel products and services provided by numerous airlines, lodging properties, car rental companies, cruise lines and destination service providers, such as attractions and tours. Using a portfolio approach for IAC Travel's brands and businesses allows it to target a broad range of customers looking for different value propositions. A description of IAC Travel's principal brands and businesses appears below.
Expedia.com makes a large variety of travel products and services available directly to consumers through its U.S.-based website, www.expedia.com, as well as through localized versions of its website in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, many of which are leading online travel service companies in their respective country. IAC Travel also operates www.anyway.com, a leading online travel company in France. The Expedia-branded websites also serve as the travel channel on MSN.com, Microsoft's online services network in the United States, as well as certain international MSN sites. See "Marketing." Expedia-branded websites target many different types of consumers, from families booking a summer vacation to individual travelers arranging a quick weekend getaway, in order to provide the vast majority of travelers with the ability to research, plan and obtain their travel needs. Consumers can search for, compare information (including pricing and availability) and book travel products and services on Expedia-branded websites, including airline tickets, lodging, car rentals, cruises and many destination services, such as attractions and tours, from a large number of suppliers, on a stand-alone and package basis.
Hotels.com makes available a large variety of lodging options to customers, who can plan, shop for and book lodging accommodations, from traditional hotels to vacation rentals, at over 15,000 properties worldwide. Hotels.com seeks to provide customers with premium content through its US-based website, www.hotels.com (as well as localized versions in the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and South Africa), its vacation rentals website at www.vacationspot.com and its toll-free call centers. Hotels.com is pursuing a strategy focused on differentiating its service offerings by positioning itself as a hotel expert with premium content about lodging properties, while simultaneously moving away from its historical focus solely on discount pricing.
Hotwire.com is a leading discount travel website that makes available airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. Hotwire's opaque approach matches the needs of two groups: price-sensitive consumers willing to be flexible to save money; and suppliers who have excess seats, rooms and cars they wish to fill without affecting the public's perception of their brands. Hotwire customers enjoy significant discounts by electing to book travel services "opaquely," without knowing certain itinerary details such as brand, time of departure and exact hotel location, while suppliers create value from excess inventory without diluting their core brand-loyal customer base. Hotwire works with many domestic and international airlines, including the U.S. full-service major network airlines, top hotels in hundreds of cities and resort destinations in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean and major car rental companies nationwide.
Interval International, or Interval, is a leading membership-services company providing timeshare exchange and other value-added programs to its timeshare-owning members and resort developers worldwide. As of December 31, 2004, Interval had established contractual affiliations with over 2,000 resorts located in 76 countries and provided timeshare exchange services to nearly 1.7 million timeshare owners. Interval's revenues are generated primarily from fees paid by members in connection with exchange and rental transactions and membership fees. Through December 31, 2004, Interval was operated and managed through IAC Travel. Following the completion of the Spin-Off, Interval will remain part of IAC.
Interval typically enters into multi-year contracts with developers of timeshare resorts, pursuant to which the developers agree to enroll all purchasers of timeshare accommodations at the applicable resort as members of Interval's network on an exclusive basis. In return, Interval provides the timeshare purchasers with the ability to exchange their timeshare accommodations for comparable accommodations at resorts participating in Interval's exchange network.
Developers generally remit Interval's initial basic membership fee on behalf of its timeshare owners for membership periods of one to three years at the time the timeshare interests are sold. Some developers have incorporated Interval's annual membership fee into their annual assessments and these owners' memberships are renewed annually by the developer during the period of the resort's participation in the Interval exchange network. However, in most cases, timeshare owners are responsible for renewing their memberships and paying related fees.
As an upgrade to its basic membership program, for an additional annual fee, exchange members can participate in the Interval Gold Program, a value-added, membership enhancement program. The Interval Gold Program provides exchange members with year-round benefits and services, such as hotel, dining and leisure discounts, a concierge service and access to special exchange options, including a golf, spa and cruise exchanges. As of December 31, 2004, approximately 35% of Interval's timeshare exchange members were enrolled in the Interval Gold Program.
Interval uses advanced telecommunications systems and technologies to deliver exchange and membership services to its members through call centers and through its website, www.intervalworld.com. Interval also makes travel-related products and services available to its members directly and through third party providers, as well as additional services through its website to select exchange members. Exchange members also receive regular publications highlighting Interval's exchange network and specific exchange opportunities and membership benefits and services and, upon confirmation of an exchange, an exchange information pack, which contains details regarding the relevant resort, on-site services and nearby attractions. Interval also provides a comprehensive array of services to the developers of resorts participating in its network, such as sales and marketing support, consulting services and back-office servicing solutions.
WWTE, IAC Travel's private label program, is used to make travel products and services available to consumers through third party company-branded websites using IAC Travel's industry leading technology platform. The private label program, which is a low risk, cost-effective way for IAC Travel to enter new markets in the United States and abroad, enables IAC Travel to cover many more markets than is possible by setting up full-scale websites, which requires significant investment in technology and personnel. The products and services made available through WWTE websites are a subset of those made available on IAC Travel's Expedia-branded websites. IAC Travel pays participants in the WWTE private label program on a revenue-share basis. IAC Travel also has a growing international private label business.
Classic Customs Vacations, or CCV, makes premium custom Hawaiian, Mexican, Caribbean and European travel packages available principally to a network of travel agents throughout the United
States. Travel agents shopping for premium custom vacation packages for their customers can obtain such packages through the CCV team of telesales professionals. Customers can preview these packages directly through CCV's websites, www.classiccustomvacations.com and www.classicvacations.com.
Expedia!fun is a network of in-destination travel desks located at hotels and resorts in Florida, Hawaii and Mexico that offer travelers the opportunity to obtain tours, attractions, airport transfer services and other travel-related services. IAC Travel entered the destination services market through its acquisition of Activity World, a Hawaiian destination service provider, in 2004 and recently expanded its travel desk business with the 2005 acquisition of Premier Getaways, a destination service provider in Florida.
Expedia Corporate Travel is a full-service travel management company that makes travel products and services available to corporate customers in the U.S. and in Europe. Expedia Corporate Travel is growing globally, and in 2004 established Expedia Corporate Travel Europe, which includes www.egencia.com, acquired by the Company through IAC Travel in March 2004 and World Travel Management, acquired by the Company through IAC Travel in August 2004. Expedia Corporate Travel provides, among other things, centralized booking tools for employees of its corporate customers, support of negotiated airfares and consolidated reporting aimed at small- and mid-sized businesses. Expedia Corporate Travel charges corporate client companies sign-up and set-up fees as well as transactional fees for making or changing bookings. In addition, Expedia Corporate Travel provides on-site agents to some corporate clients in order to support the related account.
International Opportunities and Investments
IAC Travel leverages its established brands and businesses to enter markets with large existing travel markets and established consumer behavior for planning and purchasing travel. IAC Travel reaches many customers in several countries and multiple continents through the brands and businesses described above. IAC Travel typically customizes international points of sale to reflect local language, currency, customs, traveler behavior and preferences and local hotel markets, all of which may vary from country to country.
IAC Travel believes that Europe presents an especially large opportunity for its brands and businesses. Europe is more populous than the U.S. and, with more generous vacation policies by employers, Europeans generally take more frequent and longer vacations than do Americans. European hotel markets are more fragmented than U.S. hotel markets, and therefore, IAC Travel believes that it is more difficult for European hotels to reach their customers through traditional marketing initiatives than for U.S. hotels. IAC Travel believes that its ability to deliver the targeted marketing characteristics of the Internet increases the value it can bring to travel suppliers in Europe and elsewhere.
In addition to expanding its brands and businesses into foreign markets, IAC Travel also makes investments in travel and travel-related businesses abroad. For example, IAC Travel is party to a joint venture with Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF), the state-owned railway group in France, which operates www.voyages-sncf.com, a leading online site for e-tourism in France. SNCF and IAC Travel (through Expedia) own 50.1% and 49.9% of the joint venture, respectively.
IAC Travel has also expanded into the Asia-Pacific region, where travel markets are growing. As part of its expansion into Asia-Pacific, the Company, through IAC Travel, currently holds approximately 52% of the outstanding capital stock (on a fully diluted basis) of eLong, Inc. (NASDAQ:LONG), or eLong. This stake represents approximately 96% of the total voting power of eLong. eLong is an independent travel service company headquartered in Beijing with a national presence across China. eLong uses web-based distribution technologies and a 24-hour nationwide call center to provide consumers with consolidated travel information and the ability to access hotel reservations at discounted rates at over 2,600 hotels in major cities across China. eLong offers air ticketing and other travel related services, such as rental cars, vacation packages and corporate travel services.
IAC Travel intends to continue to expand its international presence. In order to achieve widespread acceptance in the countries and markets it enters, IAC Travel must continue to successfully tailor its services to the unique customs and cultures of such countries and markets. Learning the customs and cultures of various countries, particularly with respect to travel patterns and practices, can be difficult and costly and IAC Travel's failure to do so could slow its international growth. In addition, IAC Travel faces, and expects to continue to face, additional risks associated with its international operations. These risks include unexpected changes in regulatory requirements, increased risk and limits on its ability to enforce intellectual property rights, exchange rate fluctuations, potential delays in the development of the Internet as an advertising and commerce medium in international markets and difficulties in managing operations due to distance, language and cultural differences, including issues associated with establishing management systems and infrastructures and staffing and managing foreign operations.
Merchant and Agency Business Models
IAC Travel, through its various brands and businesses, makes travel products and services available on a stand-alone and package basis primarily through two separate business models: the merchant model and the agency model. Under the merchant model, IAC Travel facilitates the booking of hotel rooms, airline seats, car rentals and destination services from its travel suppliers and is, for such bookings, the merchant of record. Acting as the merchant of record enables IAC Travel to achieve a higher level of net revenues per transaction, promote additional services for its travel suppliers and generally provide lower prices to consumers as compared to those provided through the agency model. Merchant revenues are recognized when the customer uses the travel product or service, as opposed to when the travel product or service is booked. In the case of merchant transactions, IAC Travel has certain latitude to establish and change prices charged to customers (as compared to agency transactions). The merchant model provides travel suppliers a cost-efficient way (as compared to traditional marketing initiatives) to increase the marketing and promotion of their brands. Merchant revenues are derived from the difference between amounts paid to the travel suppliers and the amounts paid by the consumer.
Under the agency model, IAC Travel acts as an agent in the transaction, passing reservations booked by its customers to the relevant airline, hotel, car rental company or cruise line. IAC Travel receives a commission or ticketing fee from the travel supplier for its services under the agency model. In the case of agency airline transactions, IAC Travel also receives fees from global distribution systems, or GDSs, which control the computer systems through which air travel reservations are booked, in addition to any commissions or ticketing fees paid by travel suppliers. See "Relationships with Travel Suppliers and Distribution PartnersTravel Supplier and Distribution Partner Revenues." In agency transactions, the travel supplier sets the price paid by the consumer and the travel supplier appears as the merchant of record for the transaction. Agency revenues are derived primarily from commissions and ticketing fees from travel suppliers, revenues from GDSs and fees from leisure and corporate customers and are recognized at the time the reservation is booked. Fees from leisure and corporate customers include (i) service fees, which are charged in connection with most bookings on
U.S. and some international websites, (ii) fees for processing and delivery of paper airline tickets via express mail and (iii) corporate transaction service fees for travel booking services provided to corporate customers.
Through IAC Travel-branded websites, customers can dynamically assemble multiple component travel packages in a single transaction at a savings as compared to booking each component separately. Packages assembled by customers through the dynamic packaging model on IAC Travel-branded websites include at least one major merchant air, car or hotel component. Customers select packages based on the total package price, without being provided component pricing. The use of the merchant travel components in packages enables IAC Travel to make certain travel products available at prices lower than those charged on a per component basis by travel suppliers without impacting their established pricing and positioning models.
Relationships with Travel Suppliers and Distribution Partners
Overview. IAC Travel makes travel products and services available from a variety of large and small commercial and charter airlines, lodging properties, major car rental companies and cruise lines and in-destination service providers. IAC Travel seeks to build and maintain long-term, strategic relationships with these travel suppliers that have the mutual objective of shared success, as well as build additional strategic relationships with other travel suppliers and GDS distribution partners. An important component of the success of IAC Travel's business depends on its ability to maintain its existing, as well as build new, relationships with travel suppliers and GDS distribution partners.
Adverse changes in existing relationships, or IAC Travel's inability to enter into new arrangements on favorable terms or if at all, could reduce the amount, quality and breadth of attractively priced travel products and services that IAC Travel is able to make available through its brands and businesses, which could adversely affect its business, financial condition and results of operations.
Benefits to Travel Suppliers. IAC Travel strives to deliver value to its travel suppliers through a wide range of innovative, targeted merchandising and promotional strategies designed to increase their revenues, while simultaneously reducing their marketing transaction and customer service costs. IAC Travel maintains a supplier relations team, which consists of a staff of account executives and market managers who work directly with travel suppliers to increase the marketing of their travel products through IAC Travel's brands and businesses.
In addition, IAC Travel has developed proprietary, supplier-oriented technology that streamlines the interaction between some of its websites and hotel property management systems, making it easier and more cost-effective for hotels to manage reservations made through certain IAC Travel brands and businesses. Through "direct connect" technology, hotels can upload information about available products and services and rates directly from their central reservation systems into certain IAC Travel websites, as well as automatically confirm hotel reservations made by IAC Travel customers. In the absence of direct connect technology, both of these processes are generally completed manually. There are currently more than one thousand hotels in North America that have adopted direct connect technology and IAC Travel expects that this number will increase in the future.
Travel Supplier and Distribution Partner Revenues. A portion of IAC Travel's agency revenues are derived from compensation paid by travel suppliers and GDS distribution partners for bookings made through IAC Travel's websites. IAC Travel generally negotiates these commissions and fees with its travel suppliers and GDS distribution partners. Over the last several years travel suppliers have generally reduced or eliminated commissions to travel agents and other travel intermediaries. No assurances can be given that airlines, GDS distribution partners or other travel suppliers will not reduce current industry compensation or IAC Travel's compensation, either of which could reduce IAC Travel's agency revenues and margins and adversely affect its business, financial condition and results of operations.
Industry and Competition
IAC Travel's brands and businesses compete in rapidly evolving and intensely competitive markets. According to industry sources, combined global travel sales (for the United States, Europe and the Asia Pacific region) in 2004 were approximately $875 billion, approximately $90 billion of which were transacted online. Combined travel sales for Europe and the Asia Pacific region in 2004 were approximately $529 billion, approximately $33 billion of which were transacted online. Industry sources predict that online travel sales in Europe and the Asia Pacific region will grow by as much as approximately 40% over the next several years. The relatively low percentage of total travel sales transacted online in international markets indicates that these markets represent especially large opportunities for IAC Travel and those of its competitors who wish to expand their brands and businesses abroad.
IAC Travel's competitors include online and offline travel companies that target leisure and corporate travelers, travel supplier direct websites and other channels, consolidators and wholesalers of travel products and services and other companies offering travel search engines, content or advice, in each case, on a local, regional, national and/or international basis.
IAC Travel believes that maintaining and enhancing its brands is a critical component of its efforts to compete with its competitors. IAC Travel's brands and businesses differentiate themselves from competitors primarily on the basis of quality and breadth of travel products made available, channel features and usability, price, customer service and quality of travel planning content and advice. The emphasis on one or more of these factors varies, depending on the brand or business and the related target demographic.
IAC Travel's brands and businesses face competition from travel supplier direct websites. In some cases, supplier direct channels offer advantages to customers, such as loyalty programs or lower transaction fees. To the extent that consumers increase the percentage of their travel purchases through travel direct supplier websites, IAC Travel's business may suffer. IAC Travel believes that its websites, which feature travel products and services from numerous (as opposed to a single) travel brands, have greater appeal in the case of brand-agnostic customers, a much larger demographic than brand-loyal customers.
IAC Travel's business is generally sensitive to changes in the competitive landscape, including the emergence of new competitors, most recently, the travel meta-search engine. Travel meta-search engines aggregate pricing and other information from other travel websites, and present this information in the form of consolidated, comparative search results to their users. Consumers can purchase travel products and services directly from travel suppliers by clicking-through to their branded websites through search results or links posted on the travel meta-search engine.
Some of IAC Travel's competitors may be able to make products and services from travel suppliers available on more favorable terms based on a variety of factors, including their willingness to accept lower revenues, better relationships with suppliers and their vertical integration with GDSs and/or travel suppliers. IAC Travel expects its current and future competitors to continually revise and improve their business models. Travel product and service providers that work with IAC Travel and its online competitors may introduce pricing or other business changes that could adversely affect IAC Travel's attractiveness to travel suppliers.
Interval faces competition primarily from Resort Condominiums International, LLC, a subsidiary of Cendant Corporation, as well as several other companies that perform exchanges on a smaller, often more regional, basis. A number of management companies also compete with Interval by offering exchange opportunities among resorts that they manage as a component of their management services. In addition, a wide variety of vacation clubs and large resort developers, some of which participate in
Interval's exchange network, are creating and operating their own internal reservation and exchange systems to facilitate alternative accommodations for timeshare owners at their resorts.
IAC Travel's business, financial condition and results of operations are also affected by the health of the worldwide travel industry. Travel expenditures are sensitive to business and personal discretionary spending levels and tend to decline during general economic downturns. Accordingly, IAC Travel's business is sensitive to downturns or weaknesses in the travel industry, which could adversely affect the growth of its business. Additionally, IAC Travel's business is sensitive to safety concerns, and thus may decline after incidents of terrorism, during periods of geopolitical conflict in which travelers become concerned about safety issues or when travel might involve health-related risks, one or more of which could result in a protracted decrease in demand for its travel services. This decrease in demand, depending on its scope and duration, together with any future issues impacting travel safety, could significantly and adversely impact IAC Travel's business, financial condition and results of operations over the short and long term. In addition, the disruption of the existing travel plans of a significant number of customers upon the occurrence of certain events, such as terrorist activity or war, could result in the incurrence of significant additional costs if IAC Travel provides relief to affected customers by not charging cancellation fees or by refunding the price of otherwise non-refundable unused tickets.
IAC Travel's marketing programs, initiatives and related spending accrue to the primary goals of building and maintaining individual brand propositions across its portfolio of brands, driving traffic and conversion through its various brands and businesses, lowering ongoing customer acquisition costs, increasing market share and strategically positioning its various brands and businesses in relation to each other.
IAC Travel's marketing programs and initiatives primarily include direct and/or personalized customer communications, search engine marketing and online and offline advertising. In addition, IAC Travel's Expedia-branded websites operate the travel channel on the MSN.com website in the U.S. and MSN websites in Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany. The related MSN contract continues through June 2005. IAC Travel is currently negotiating the renewal of this agreement with Microsoft. However, no assurances can be provided that IAC Travel will be able to renew the agreement on acceptable terms, if at all.
IAC Travel also makes use of affiliate marketing. IAC Travel's Expedia and Hotels.com-branded websites receive bookings from consumers who have clicked-through to the respective websites through links posted on affiliate partner websites through affiliate programs, including the Interactive Affiliate Network, or IAN.com. As of December 31, 2004, IAC Travel had affiliation agreements with thousands of third party affiliate partners, including a number of leading travel companies, pursuant to which it pays affiliate partners a commission for bookings originated from their websites. Affiliate partners can make travel products and services available through an IAC Travel-branded website, a co-branded website or their own private label website. IAC Travel also provides its affiliates with industry-leading technology and access to a wide range of products and services.
The long term success of IAC Travel depends on its continued ability to increase the overall number of customer transactions in a cost-effective manner. In order to increase the number of customer transactions, IAC Travel must attract new visitors to its websites and other distribution channels, convert these visitors into paying customers and capture repeat business from existing customers. Similarly, IAC Travel's corporate travel business is dependent on enlisting new corporate customers and attracting their travel booking activity online to Expedia Corporate Travel. One of the principal ways in which IAC Travel attracts customers to its websites in a cost-effective manner is through its affiliate programs, as described above. If the number of affiliates participating in these programs were to decrease significantly, costs relating to IAC Travel's sales and marketing
commitments could increase. In addition, IAC Travel believes that rates for desirable advertising and marketing placements, both online and offline, are likely to increase in the foreseeable future. No assurances can be provided that IAC Travel will be successful in acquiring new customers in a cost-effective manner.
IAC Travel must comply with laws and regulations relating to the travel industry and the provision of travel services. These include registration in various states as "sellers of travel" and/or vacation clubs and compliance with certain disclosure requirements and participation in state restitution funds. In addition, IAC Travel businesses are subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Transportation and must comply with various rules and regulations governing the provision of air transportation, including those relating to advertising and accessibility.
IAC Travel is currently subject and, as IAC Travel continues to expand the reach of its brands and businesses into the European, Asia-Pacific and other international markets, will become increasingly subject, to laws and regulations applicable to travel agents in those markets, including laws regulating the provision of travel packages and industry specific value-added tax regimes. For example, the EEC Council Directive on Package Travel Package Holidays and Package Tours imposes various obligations upon marketers of travel packages, such as disclosure obligations to consumers and liability to consumers for improper performance of the package, including supplier failure. Laws applicable to travel agents in these markets are subject to change at any time and authorities in these markets are regularly considering new legislation, as well as changes in the application of existing laws and regimes applicable to travel agents and the travel industry.
In the case of Interval, a number of states require Interval to prepare and file annual disclosure documents regarding its exchange services. In addition, the development of timeshare resorts and the sale of timeshare interests is a heavily regulated industry in the U.S. on a state level, as well as in various jurisdictions abroad. This regulation directly affects the resorts and members that participate in Interval's exchange network which may affect Interval's business and, in turn, IAC Travel's business. These regulatory regimes are routinely under review and are often the subject of legislation. While Interval closely monitors the content and progress of all such legislation, it is unable to predict whether such legislation will be adopted, when and in what form and, if so, what the impact may be on the members and resorts that participate in Interval's exchange network and/or Interval's business.
Overview. HSN U.S. sells a variety of consumer products, primarily through the HSN and America's Store television networks and HSN.com, as well as through consumer catalog services and infomercials. The HSN and America's Store television networks both broadcast live, customer-interactive electronic retail sales programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Programming produced by HSN U.S. is intended to promote sales and customer loyalty through a combination of product quality, price and value, coupled with product information and entertainment. Programming on the HSN and America's Store television networks is divided into separately televised segments, each of which has a host who presents and conveys information regarding the featured product, sometimes with the assistance of a representative from the product vendor.
HSN Merchandise. HSN U.S. features over 25,000 consumer products, including jewelry, computers and electronics, home fashions, cookware and kitchen aids and health, beauty and fitness products, among others. Featured products include exclusive, third party-branded products, as well as HSN-branded products.
HSN U.S. provides viewers with a number of convenient options in connection with the purchase, payment and shipping of merchandise, which vary by product, including the AutoShip program, pursuant to which customers can arrange to have purchases automatically sent and billed to them on a regularly scheduled basis, and the Flexpay option, which allows customers to pay for purchases in up to five monthly, interest-free installments. Standard and express shipping options are available and customers may generally return most merchandise within 30 days of receipt for a full refund or exchange.
HSN U.S. purchases merchandise made to its specifications, as well as merchandise from name brand vendors and other third party lines, typically under certain exclusive rights, and overstock inventories from wholesalers, the mix and source of which depends upon a variety of factors, including price and availability. HSN U.S. generally does not enter into long-term supply arrangements with any of its vendors, given that there are a variety of sources of supply available.
Reach. As of December 31, 2003 and 2004, the HSN television network reached approximately 81.1 million and 85.5 million of the approximately 108.4 million and 109.6 million homes in the United States with a television set, respectively. Television households reached by the HSN television network as of December 31, 2003 and 2004 primarily include approximately 61.9 million and 62.6 million households capable of receiving cable and/or broadcast transmissions and approximately 18.6 million and 22.6 million direct broadcast satellite system, or DBS, households, respectively.
As of December 31, 2003 and 2004, the America's Store television network reached approximately 10.4 and 13.0 million DBS households and approximately 7.1 million and 6.2 million cable television households, of which approximately 3.5 million and 4.3 million were distributed on a digital tier, respectively. Of the total number of cable television households that received the America's Store television network as of December 31, 2003 and 2004, approximately 6.9 and 6.0 million, respectively, also received the HSN television network.
HSN U.S. produces live programming for the HSN and America's Store television networks in its studios in St. Petersburg, Florida. HSN U.S. distributes its programming by means of its satellite uplink facilities, which it owns and operates, to two satellite transponders leased by HSN U.S. on a full-time basis through May 2019 and November 2019. While HSN U.S. has designed business continuity and disaster recovery plans to ensure its continued satellite transmission capability on a temporary basis in the event of a natural or other disaster, the prolonged or permanent interruption of its satellite transmission capability for any reason and/or related costs incurred by HSN U.S. could have a material adverse affect on the business, financial condition and results of operations of HSN U.S. and/or IAC.
Pay Television Distribution. HSN U.S. has entered into multi-year affiliation agreements with cable operators and the two largest DBS operators in the United States to carry the HSN and/or America's Store television networks, as well as to promote one or both networks by carrying related commercials and distributing related marketing materials to their respective subscriber bases. In exchange for this carriage and related promotional and other efforts, including commitments to deliver pre-determined numbers of subscribers over specified time periods, HSN U.S. generally pays these pay television operators a commission, based on a percentage of the net merchandise sales, to their subscriber bases. In certain cases, pay television operators receive additional compensation in the form of the purchase of advertising time on other programming networks, commission guarantees and/or upfront payments in exchange for their commitments to deliver subscribers.
From time to time, pending the renewal of an existing affiliation agreement or the negotiation of a new affiliation agreement, the HSN and/or America's Store television networks will be carried by one or more pay television operators without an effective affiliation agreement in place. Renewal and negotiation processes with pay television operators are typically protracted. Existing affiliation agreements with certain major cable operators and DBS operators are scheduled to expire over the course of 2005. Some, but not all of these agreements, contain renewal provisions. While HSN U.S.
intends to pursue the renewal of, or negotiate new, cable and DBS affiliation agreements to carry the HSN television network, no assurances can be given that it will be able to do so on acceptable terms, if at all. While the cessation of carriage of the HSN and/or America's Store television networks by a major cable operator, a DBS operator or a significant number of smaller cable operators could have a significant adverse effect on the business, financial condition and results of operations of HSN U.S. and the Company, the Company believes that it will be able to continue to successfully manage the distribution process in the future.
Broadcast Television Distribution. As of December 31, 2004, HSN U.S. also had affiliation agreements with 1 full-time, full power television station, 18 part-time, full power television stations and 103 low power television stations for carriage of the HSN and/or America's Store television networks with terms ranging from several weeks to several years. In exchange for this carriage, HSN U.S. pays broadcast television stations hourly or monthly fixed rates. The HSN and/or America's Store networks are also distributed on a full-time basis by 27 low power television stations pursuant to a long term affiliation agreement between HSN U.S. and Ventana Television, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of IAC.
HSN.com. HSN U.S. operates HSN.com, a transactional e-commerce site that serves as an alternative storefront for merchandise featured on the HSN and/or America's Store television networks, as well as a significant amount of additional inventory available only through HSN.com. HSN.com also provides consumers with additional content to support and enhance HSN television programming, including an online program guide, a 24 hour product review through which consumers can find and view products previously featured on the HSN television network, live streaming video of the HSN television network and additional information about HSN show hosts and guest personalities. Consumers can also track the status of their online orders, communicate directly with customer service via e-mail and manage their account information through HSN.com. HSN.com generated approximately 15.9% of HSN U.S. sales in 2004.
Catalog Services and Infomercials. HSN U.S. catalog services consists of three consumer catalogs and related websites that feature thousands of home, yard and automotive products. New editions of the full-color catalogs are mailed to customers several times each year for a total annual circulation of over 80 million catalogs. The Company recently agreed to acquire Cornerstone Brands, a portfolio of leading print catalogs and related online retailing sites that sell home products and leisure and casual apparel. Cornerstone Brands' portfolio includes Frontgate, Ballard Designs, Garnet Hill, Smith and Noble, The Territory Ahead and TravelSmith. Upon completion of this acquisition, which is expected to occur during the second quarter of 2005 (subject to the receipt of the requisite regulatory approvals and the satisfaction of customary closing conditions), the existing catalog services of HSN U.S. will become part of Cornerstone Brands. HSN U.S. also offers select products through nationwide infomercial campaigns, which it produces and manages, on pay television networks on a limited basis.
As of December 31, 2004, HSN International consisted of HSE-Germany, EUVÍA and Quiz TV (which operates an interactive game and quiz show television channel based in London, England), as well as minority interests in home shopping businesses in Italy, China and Japan.
HSE-Germany. As of December 31, 2004, HSN International owned approximately 90% of HSE-Germany. HSE-Germany operates a German-language home shopping business that is broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and also generates sales on its own website. HSN International acquired the remaining 10% interest in HSE-Germany that it did not already own on February 9, 2005. As of December 31, 2004, HSE-Germany had approximately 19.9 million cable and 9.8 million satellite subscribers in Germany, approximately 943,000 cable and
1.0 million satellite subscribers in Austria and approximately 1.3 million cable and 220,000 satellite subscribers in Switzerland.
HSE-Germany does not need a license from German state media authorities to broadcast its programming over-the-air, via cable or via satellite. However, HSE-Germany generally must still obtain the right to broadcast its programming in a given state on a given cable channel from state media authorities in each of Germany's 16 states on a periodic basis, generally every 18 to 24 months. HSE-Germany enters into affiliation agreements with local cable operators in each of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as with one principal DBS operator for carriage in all of these countries. No assurances can be given that HSE-Germany will be able to maintain its existing rights to broadcast its programming over the cable networks of each of Germany's 16 states and/or negotiate affiliation agreements with pay television operators on acceptable terms, if at all.
EUVÍA. HSN International owns, through a German subsidiary, 48.6% of EUVÍA, a German limited partnership that operates two television broadcasting businesses in Germany. ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, the second largest German television group, owns 48.4% of EUVÍA. The remaining 3% of EUVÍA, over which HSN International also has voting control, is owned by EUVÍA's CEO.
EUVÍA operates two television channels, 9Live, an interactive game and quiz show-oriented television channel, and Sonnenklar, a travel-oriented television channel. EUVÍA also sells package travel tours through Sonnenklar and its related website. While Sonnenklar does not need a broadcast license from German state media authorities, it must obtain rights to broadcast its programming on cable channels in each of Germany's 16 states on a periodic basis. 9Live broadcasts its programming pursuant to a license granted by the German state media authorities that expires in 2011. Sonnenklar and 9Live both enter into affiliation agreements with local cable operators, as well as with one principal DBS operator, for carriage in Germany. 9Live is distributed throughout Germany via satellite, cable and terrestrial antenna, and as of December 31, 2004, reached approximately 29.9 million households. Sonnenklar is distributed throughout Germany via digital and analogue satellites and cable, and as of December 31, 2004, reached approximately 28.4 million households.
HSN U.S. operates in a highly competitive environment. The HSN and America's Store television networks are in direct competition with traditional offline and online retailers, ranging from large department stores to specialty shops, electronic retailers, direct marketing retailers, such as mail order and catalog companies, and discount retailers. The HSN and America's Store television networks compete with, and HSN U.S. expects to face increasing competition from, other companies that market merchandise by means of live television. The HSN and America's Store television networks also compete for access to customers and audience share with other conventional forms of entertainment and content. The price and availability of programming for pay television systems affect the availability of distribution for HSN U.S. programming and the compensation that must be paid to pay television operators for related carriage.
In addition, competition for channel capacity has increased. While the advent of digital cable may decrease this competition, this additional capacity may encourage competitors to enter the marketplace, which could adversely affect the ability of HSN U.S. to attract viewers and customers. No prediction can be made with respect to the extent to which digital technology will ultimately impact the availability of channel capacity or the ability of new competitors to enter the marketplace. Also, certain broadcast television stations can demand carriage on local cable systems pursuant to "must-carry" rights, which may apply to digital television in the future. HSN U.S. is and will continue to be affected by these mandatory carriage rights to the extent that they decrease the number of available cable channels. No assurances can be provided that HSN U.S. will be able to secure well-positioned channel capacity on attractive terms and its inability to do so could have a material adverse effect on its business, financial condition and results of operations.
HSN.com competes with numerous brick-and-mortar retailers, other online and offline retailers, catalog merchants and television shopping channels. A number of HSN.com's online competitors have a larger user base and greater expertise in developing online commerce. HSN U.S. believes that the principal competitive factors in this market are selection of goods, customer service, reliability of delivery, brand recognition, convenience and accessibility, price, quality of search tools and system reliability.
HSN International. HSE-Germany competes in Germany with traditional retailers, direct marketing retailers and other electronic retailers, some of which offer 24-hour electronic retailing or use infomercials and a small amount of live programming. Sonnenklar faces competition from traditional travel agencies, tour operators, which are increasingly selling directly to consumers, and online travel service providers. 9Live competes for access to participants and audience share with other conventional forms of entertainment and content, as well as other forms of game show content, both online and offline.
Congress, the FCC and federal courts currently are reviewing certain existing cable, newspaper and media ownership restrictions. Depending on the outcome of FCC proceedings and of any subsequent court review, individual cable operators might acquire control over larger segments of the nation's cable customers and channels, in which case HSN U.S. could be required to negotiate with fewer cable operators that would control larger portions of the market for the terms of and opportunity to secure carriage. Regardless of the outcome of these FCC proceedings, the antitrust laws could impose independent limitations on the concentration of cable ownership. HSN U.S. cannot predict the outcome of these FCC proceedings, any subsequent court challenges, or future applications of the antitrust laws. No assurances can be made that the outcome of these FCC proceedings and subsequent marketplace activity would not materially affect HSN U.S. or the Company.
HSN U.S. is subject to a variety of consumer protection laws and regulations relating to the accuracy of its product claims.
Overview. Ticketmaster and its affiliated brands provide online and offline ticketing services through Ticketmaster-owned websites, operator-staffed call centers and independent retail outlets, serving many of the foremost venues, entertainment facilities, promoters and professional sports franchises in the United States and abroad, including in Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Ticketmaster has also entered into joint ventures with third parties to provide ticket distribution services in Australia and Mexico.
Ticketmaster has continued to expand its ticketing operations into territories outside of the United States and continues to experience growth in these markets. Ticketmaster sold approximately 26.1 million tickets in 2003 as compared to approximately 29.3 million in 2004 in these markets (excluding sales by unconsolidated international joint ventures).
Ticketmaster also continues to expand its ticket distribution capabilities through the continued development of its website, www.ticketmaster.com, and related domestic and international websites, which are designed to promote ticket sales for live events and disseminate event information. Ticketmaster's primary ticketing website, www.ticketmaster.com, is a leading online ticketing service that enables consumers to purchase tickets over the Internet for live music, sports, arts and family entertainment events presented by Ticketmaster's clients. Consumers can access www.ticketmaster.com directly, or from the websites of Ticketmaster's affiliates, including Citysearch, and through numerous direct links from banners and event profiles hosted by approved third party websites. In addition, www.ticketmaster.com and related international websites provide local information and original content regarding live events for Ticketmaster clients throughout the United States and abroad. Ticketmaster
has experienced growth in ticket sales through its websites in recent years and Ticketmaster expects that this trend will continue during the next several fiscal years, although at a slower pace. As of December 31, 2004, online ticket sales through www.ticketmaster.com and related websites accounted for more than one-half of Ticketmaster's ticketing volume.
Ticketmaster provides the public with convenient access to tickets and information regarding live entertainment, sporting and leisure events and activities. As a result, its business is sensitive to fluctuations in the number of entertainment, sporting and leisure events and activities offered by promoters and facilities, as well as general economic and business conditions in these industries. Adverse trends in the entertainment, sporting and leisure events and activities could have a material adverse effect on Ticketmaster's business, financial condition and results of operations.
Ticketmaster System. Ticketmaster believes that its proprietary operating system and software, generally referred to as the Ticketmaster System, as well as its extensive distribution capabilities, provide its clients with a number of benefits. The Ticketmaster System, which includes both hardware and software, is typically located in a data center that is managed by Ticketmaster staff. The Ticketmaster System provides a single, centralized inventory control and management system capable of tracking total ticket inventory for all events, whether sales are made on a season, subscription, group or individual ticket basis. All necessary hardware and software required for the use of the Ticketmaster System is installed in a client's facility box office, call centers or remote sales outlets. The versatility of the Ticketmaster System allows it to be customized to satisfy a full range of client requirements. In areas of Europe outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Ticketmaster's operating businesses generally use localized versions of Ticketmaster's proprietary operating system and software, or their own separate, local operating systems and software, all of which are also proprietary to Ticketmaster.
Client Relationships. Ticketmaster generally enters into written agreements with its clients pursuant to which it agrees to provide the Ticketmaster System and related systems purchased by the client, and to serve as the client's exclusive ticket sales agent for all sales of individual tickets sold to the general public outside of the facility's box office, including any tickets sold at remote sales outlets, over the phone or via the Internet, for specified multi-year periods. Pursuant to an agreement with a facility, Ticketmaster generally is granted the right to sell tickets for all events presented at that facility for which tickets are publicly available, and as part of such arrangement Ticketmaster installs the necessary ticketing equipment in the facility's box office. An agreement with a promoter generally grants Ticketmaster the right to sell tickets for all events presented by that promoter at any facility for which tickets are publicly available, unless the facility is covered by an exclusive agreement with Ticketmaster or another automated ticketing service company.
Ticketmaster generally does not buy tickets from its clients for resale to the public and typically assumes no financial risk for unsold tickets. All ticket prices are determined by Ticketmaster's clients. Ticketmaster's clients also generally determine the scheduling of when tickets go on sale to the public and what tickets will be available for sale through Ticketmaster. Facilities and promoters, for example, often handle group sales and season tickets in-house. Ticketmaster only sells a portion of its clients' tickets, the amount of which varies from client to client and varies as to any single client from year to year.
Ticketmaster is dependent upon its clients for ticketing supply. The ability to secure tickets depends, in part, on Ticketmaster's ability to enter into and maintain client contracts on favorable terms. No assurances can be provided that Ticketmaster will continue to be able to enter into or maintain client contracts on acceptable terms, if at all, and its inability to do so could have a material adverse effect on its business, financial condition and results of operations.
Revenues. Ticketing revenue is generated principally from convenience charges and order processing fees received by Ticketmaster for each ticket sold by Ticketmaster on behalf of its clients. These charges are negotiated and included in Ticketmaster's contracts with its clients. Pursuant to its
contracts with clients, Ticketmaster is granted the right to collect from ticket purchasers a per ticket convenience charge on all tickets sold through www.ticketmaster.com, by telephone and through remote sales outlets and other media. There is an additional "order processing" fee on all ticket orders sold by Ticketmaster, other than at remote sales outlets. Generally, the amount of the convenience charge is determined during the contract negotiation process, and typically varies based upon numerous factors, including the services to be rendered to the client, the amount and cost of equipment to be installed at the client's box office and the amount of advertising and/or promotional allowances to be provided, as well as the type of event and whether the ticket is purchased through www.ticketmaster.com, by telephone, through a remote sales outlet or other media. Any deviations from those amounts for any event are negotiated and agreed upon by Ticketmaster and its client prior to the commencement of ticket sales. Generally, the agreement between Ticketmaster and a client will also establish the amounts and frequency of any increases in the convenience charge and order processing fees during the term of the agreement. In certain cases, clients may participate in the convenience charges and/or order processing fees paid by ticket purchasers for tickets bought through Ticketmaster for their events. The amount of such participation, if any, is determined by negotiation between Ticketmaster and the client.
ReserveAmerica, an outdoor recreation reservation services company, is a leading provider of camping and ticketing services and software to United States federal and state agencies. Specific areas include services for outdoor recreation point-of-sale systems, tour ticketing management, camping reservations and general recreation ticketing to public land attractions. The ReserveAmerica system permits the general public to make camping reservations and obtain access to public recreation attractions over the Internet, by telephone and in person. ReserveAmerica's websites, www.reserveamerica.com, www.reserveusa.com., hearst.reserveamerica.com and www.bwcaw.org service up to 1,500,000 visitors monthly. ReserveAmerica also maintains four telephone call centers in New York, California, Florida and Wisconsin.
Competition. Ticketmaster's ticketing business faces competition from other national, regional and local ticketing service companies and entertainment organizations with ticketing distribution capabilities, as well as from its clients and aggregations of its clients, such as major league sports leagues, which increasingly have the capability to fulfill ticketing distribution and management functions through their own systems. Not all facilities, promoters and other potential clients use the services of an automated ticketing company, choosing instead to distribute their tickets through their own internal box offices or other distribution channels. The increased and continued use of direct systems or new distribution channels by Ticketmaster's clients could have a material adverse effect on Ticketmaster's business, financial condition and results of operations.
Other companies compete with Ticketmaster by selling stand-alone automated ticketing systems to enable facilities to do their own ticketing. Several of Ticketmaster's competitors have operations in multiple locations, while others compete principally in one specific geographic location. Ticketmaster experiences substantial competition for potential client accounts and renewals of contracts on a regular basis. Accordingly, there can be no assurance that prospective or renewal clients will enter into contracts with Ticketmaster rather than Ticketmaster's competitors (including clients that choose to self-distribute with or without the assistance of the numerous companies that support self-distribution). Ticketmaster competes on the basis of products and service provided, capability of the ticketing system, its distribution network, reliability and price.
As an alternative to purchasing tickets through Ticketmaster, ticket purchasers generally may purchase tickets from the facility's box office at which an event will be held or by season, subscription or group sales directly from the venue or promoter of the event. Although Ticketmaster's clients may process sales of these tickets through the Ticketmaster System, Ticketmaster derives no convenience charge or other processing revenue from the ticket purchasers with respect to those ticket purchases.
Regulation. Ticketmaster is subject to certain state and local regulations, including laws in several states establishing maximum convenience and processing charges on tickets for certain live events in the
primary and/or secondary ticketing markets. Other legislation that could affect the way Ticketmaster does business, including legislation that would further regulate convenience charges and order- processing fees, is introduced from time to time in federal, state and local legislative bodies in the United States and abroad. Ticketmaster is unable to predict whether any such legislation will be adopted and, if so, the impact on its business.
Overview. Personals consists primarily of Match.com, uDate.com and related brands. These brands and their networks serviced approximately 983,000 subscribers as of December 31, 2004 and offer single adults a private and convenient environment for meeting other singles through their respective websites, as well as through Match.com's affiliated networks.
Match.com provides users with access to other users' personal profiles and also enables a user interested in meeting another user to send e-mail messages to that user through Match.com's double-blind anonymous e-mail system. E-mail recipients respond depending on their interest in the sender. It is free to post a profile on Match.com and to use any of the searching and matching tools available on the site. Match.com charges a subscription fee to users who wish to initiate or respond to e-mails from Match.com members, starting with a single-month term, with discounts for longer term subscriptions.
Match.com has entered into partnerships and strategic alliances with third parties, including the AOL and MSN portals, in order to increase subscriptions in general, as well as to target particular segments of its potential subscriber base and a broader and diverse online audience. Typically, these partners earn a commission on each customer subscription they sell into the Match.com service.
In April 2002, IAC acquired Soulmates Technology Pty Ltd., or Soulmates, a global online personals group providing dating and matchmaking services in approximately 30 countries worldwide. Using the Soulmates technology platform, Match.com operates 30 localized international dating sites in 18 languages. IAC acquired uDate.com, Inc., a global online personals group that owns and operates www.udate.com, in April 2003.
Competition. The personals business is very competitive and highly fragmented. Primary competitors of the various brands that comprise Personals include numerous online and offline dating and matchmaking services (both free and paid), some of which operate nationwide and some of which operate locally, and the personals sections of newspapers and magazines. In addition to broad-based personals services, there are numerous niche websites and offline personals services that cater to specific demographic groups.
Regulation. Several state legislatures have introduced bills that, if passed into law, would require online dating services such as Match.com to either perform criminal background checks on their subscribers or prominently disclose that they do not perform such background checks. IAC is unable to predict whether any such legislation will be adopted and, if so, the impact such legislation will have on its Personals business. Adverse publicity resulting from and relating to the introduction of these bills could harm the reputation and credibility of the personals industry and service providers within the industry. This could discourage consumers from using online personals services and could have a material adverse effect on the business, financial condition and results of operations of IAC's Personals business.
IAC Local and Media Services
As of December 31, 2004, IAC Local and Media Services consisted of Citysearch, Entertainment Publications, Evite, ServiceMagic and TripAdvisor. Following the completion of the Spin-Off, TripAdvisor will be part of New Expedia.
Citysearch is a network of local city guide websites that offer primarily original local content for major cities in the United States and abroad, as well as practical transactional tools. Citysearch city guides provide up-to-date, locally produced information about a given city's arts and entertainment events, bars and restaurants, recreation, community activities and businesses (shopping and professional services), as well as real estate-related and travel information. Citysearch city guides also support online local transactions, including ticketing, hotel reservations, travel and matchmaking through affiliations with leading e-commerce websites, including some operated by IAC brands and businesses. These affiliate partners generally pay Citysearch fees (on a per click or revenue sharing basis, as applicable) for consumer leads sent to their respective websites.
Citysearch revenues are generated primarily through the sale of online advertising, both local and national, and to a smaller extent, from transaction fees from affiliate partners. Local advertising revenues are derived primarily from the sale of advertising through the Pay-For-Performance model, where businesses pay for the number of click-throughs to their respective profile pages on the Citysearch website or their own websites, subject to monthly maximums determined by the business. Citysearch also derives revenues from self-enrollment enhanced listings in search results, targeted electronic mail promotions and targeted sponsorship packages.
Entertainment Publications is a leading marketer of coupon books, discounts, merchant promotions and Sally Foster Gift Wrap. EPI serves more than 160 major markets and does business with approximately 70,000 local merchants and national retailers representing 225,000 North American locations. EPI's Entertainment® Book contains discount offers from local and national restaurants and hotels, leading national retailers and other merchants specializing in leisure activities. Information regarding updated offerings is also available through EPI's website. A unique feature of the Entertainment® Book is that it is typically sold in connection with fund-raising events, with a percentage of the sale proceeds from these events retained by schools, community groups and other non-profit organizations. EPI also markets discount membership and packages in published and online formats to consumers via online commerce, direct marketing, corporate and retail channels.
Evite is primarily a free online invitation service, which currently sends an average of more than 7 million invitations per month. In October 2004, Evite expanded its service offerings to include user specific recommendation platforms (based upon recommendations from a network of people with whom the user has shared an event) for restaurants, bars and clubs and a searchable database of over 50,000 live events, in each case, powered by Citysearch. The event database is provided through relationships with leading ticketing and event services, including Ticketmaster and Active.com. Evite revenues are generated primarily through online advertising and transaction fees generated from sponsorship partners integrated throughout the Evite service.
ServiceMagic is a leading online marketplace that connect consumers with pre-screened, customer-rated home service professionals. IAC acquired ServiceMagic in September 2004. When consumers submit a home service request through the ServiceMagic marketplace, ServiceMagic connects them with home service professionals from its network of over 28,000 customer-rated home service professionals, which collectively provide more than 500 different categories of home service needs, ranging from simple home repairs and maintenance to complete home remodeling projects. ServiceMagic earns revenue primarily from fees paid to ServiceMagic by home service professionals for consumer leads, regardless of whether the home service professional that received the lead ultimately provides the requested service, as well as from one time fees charged to home service professionals upon their enrollment in the ServiceMagic network.
TripAdvisor is a comprehensive online travel search engine and directory that aggregates unbiased articles, guidebook reviews and user comments on cities, hotels and activities in a variety of given destinations from a number of online sources. IAC acquired TripAdvisor in April 2004. In addition to travel-related information, TripAdvisor's destination-specific search results provide links to the websites
of TripAdvisor's travel partners (travel service providers and marketers) through which consumers can make related travel arrangements. TripAdvisor generates substantially all of its revenues from advertising fees paid by its travel partners for consumer leads sent to their websites.
TripAdvisor also operates DigitalAdvisor, a comprehensive online directory of electronic products, from digital cameras to notebook computers, online electronic retailers and detailed owner and professional product reviews. When consumers find products that fit their needs, they can quickly compare prices at multiple stores. DigitalAdvisor generates revenues from merchants and merchant aggregators who pay DigitalAdvisor for sales and/or consumer leads sent to their websites.
Citysearch. The markets for local content, local services and local advertising are highly competitive and diverse. Citysearch's primary competitors include online providers of local content, numerous search engines and other site aggregation companies, media, telecommunications and cable companies, Internet service providers and niche competitors that focus on a specific category or geography and compete with specific content offerings provided by Citysearch. Many of Citysearch's competitors have greater financial and marketing resources than it has and may have significant competitive advantages through other lines of business and existing business relationships.
Entertainment Publications currently competes on a national level with other providers of dining and other discounts, and on a local level with a variety of discount programs distributed via traditional fundraising channels. EPI also competes with, and expects to face increasing competition from, companies that use traditional fundraising channels to distribute products other than local discount or coupon books, such as gift wrap, magazines and chocolates.
Evite competes with a number of online and offline invitation and party planning services, including providers of online greeting cards, web-based invitation services, paper-based invitation services and party planning services. Evite also competes with online and offline social networking services and providers of live event listing information and restaurant, bar and nightlife content.
ServiceMagic currently competes with other home service-related lead generation services, as well as with Internet directories, local advertising, including radio, direct marketing campaigns, yellow pages, newspapers and other offline directories.
TripAdvisor competes with other travel search engine companies and traditional offline travel directories. DigitalAdvisor competes primarily with information web sites that cover consumer electronics products and refer consumers to online merchants.
Financial Services and Real Estate
Overview. Financial Services and Real Estate consists of LendingTree and the brands and businesses it operates, collectively referred to in this report as LendingTree. As of December 31, 2004, LendingTree's primary businesses were online exchanges that connect consumers and service providers in the lending and real estate industries and offer related services and products. Consumers can access LendingTree's services and products through three channels: LendingTree websites, third party websites and by telephone.
Financial Services. LendingTree's lending exchange services encompass most consumer credit categories, including mortgages (in connection with purchases and refinancings), home equity, automobile loans, personal and debt consolidation loans and credit cards. Consumers seeking loan products through a LendingTree channel generally begin the process by completing a simple online request, or qualification form. Consumer information is then automatically compared to the underwriting criteria of participating lenders. Qualified consumers can receive multiple loan offers from participating lenders or LendingTree Loans (as described below) in response to a single request and then compare, review and accept the offer that best suits their needs.
LendingTree generates financial services revenues from fees paid by participating lenders for the transmission of qualification forms that meet their underwriting criteria. Since a given qualification form can be transmitted to more than one participating lender (generally, up to five), LendingTree typically generates multiple transmission fees from the same qualification form. In certain cases, fees are paid to LendingTree when the participating lender who received the qualification form closes a loan with the consumer. LendingTree also generates fees from the sale of loans into secondary markets and borrowers.
In December 2004, LendingTree acquired Home Loan Center, a consumer direct lender now known as LendingTree Loans, which originates, processes, approves and funds mortgage, home equity, refinancing and debt consolidation loans in its own name. LendingTree Loans generally sells closed loans that it funds to investors in the secondary mortgage market. Consumer leads generated by LendingTree's exchanges are directed either to participating lenders or LendingTree Loans. Due to the volume and diversity of consumer leads generated by LendingTree's exchanges, LendingTree believes that it will continue to deliver value to its participating lenders as a cost-effective distribution channel.
LendingTree's ability to provide its services (including real estate services, as described below) depends, in significant part, on the quality and pricing of services provided by its participating lenders and real estate professionals, as well as the continued online migration of financial and real estate services. The failure of a significant number of participating lenders and real estate professionals to participate on LendingTree exchanges for any reason and/or provide quality services on competitive terms, as well as any slowing or stagnation in the rates at which financial and real estate services migrate online, could have a material adverse effect on LendingTree's business, financial condition and results of operations.
LendingTree's results are impacted by fluctuations in interest rates, as well as the number of homes listed for sale (which is impacted by construction rates and related costs), both of which impact demand for LendingTree's services (including real estate services). While LendingTree's broad mix of financial and real estate products and services partially mitigates the impact of these fluctuations, such fluctuations could have a material adverse effect on LendingTree's business, financial condition and results of operations.
Real Estate Services. Consumers interested in working with a real estate professional in connection with the purchase or sale of an existing or newly-constructed home can access LendingTree's real estate-related services online and complete a simple form. In the case of existing home transactions, upon completion of the form the consumer is provided with a choice of local real estate professionals from a nationwide network. Upon selection of a real estate professional, the consumer's information is forwarded to the real estate professional via web-based technology. In the case of newly- constructed homes, LendingTree provides consumers with a coupon that is presented to their new homebuilder, registering a LendingTree brand as the real estate broker of record. In all cases, if the consumer and the real estate professional agree to work together, the remainder of the transaction is completed locally and in certain cases, the consumer may be eligible for rebates and promotional incentives.
LendingTree generates real estate revenues from cooperative brokerage fees when the transmission of consumer information to the real estate professional results in the purchase or sale of a home, upon the transmission of consumer information to a participating real estate professional or in advance for the right to receive leads on a recurring basis over pre-determined time periods. In the case of consumer leads provided to new homebuilders, LendingTree earns a real estate commission when the consumer and the builder close a transaction.
Competition. In the case of lending-related services, LendingTree competes with traditional offline lending institutions and financial service companies, as well as with online lenders (including traditional offline lending institutions that have developed their own, stand-alone online lending channels) that originate the bulk of their loans through their own websites or the telephone. These companies
typically operate branded websites and attract consumers via online banner ads, key word placement on search engines, partnering with affiliates and business development arrangements with other properties, including major portals. In the case of real estate-related services, LendingTree competes with traditional offline real estate companies, as well as websites that provide online real estate referral services for a fee and websites that offer real estate broker lists without related services and customer support.
Regulation. Services available through LendingTree's brands and businesses are subject to extensive regulation by various federal, state and in some instances, local, governmental authorities.
Most states require licenses to solicit, broker or make loans secured by residential mortgages and other consumer loans to residents of those states. In addition, LendingTree is required to obtain real estate broker licenses in numerous states to operate its real estate referral services.
Some states have regulations that prohibit real estate brokers from providing consumers with a rebate or other incentives in connection with a real estate transaction. Additional states could promulgate similar regulations or interpret existing regulations in a way that limits the ability of LendingTrees's real estate exchanges to offer consumer incentives, thereby limiting the attractiveness of this service to consumers.
Federal law, such as the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, generally prohibits the payment or receipt of referral fees and fee shares or splits in connection with residential mortgage loan transactions. The applicability of referral fee and fee sharing prohibitions to the lender, realty services, advertising, marketing, distribution and cyberspace rental arrangements used by online companies like LendingTree may have the effect of reducing the types and amounts of fees that LendingTree may charge or pay in connection with real estate-secured loan products, including mortgage brokerage, lending services and real estate brokerage. Notwithstanding these prohibitions, RESPA permits payments for facilities furnished or for services actually performed, so long as the total of those payments bears a reasonable relationship to the market value of such facilities or services. A separate exception exists for cooperative brokerage fees exchanged between real estate brokers. Although LendingTree believes that it has structured its mortgage and real estate referral operations to comply with RESPA, there can be no assurances that the relevant regulatory agency will not take a contrary position.
Overview. PRC provides outsourced customer lifecycle management solutions, both domestically and internationally, to a diversified portfolio of companies. PRC uses its industry-specific business process expertise and enabling technologies to support the brand experience and customer relationship management strategies of its clients. PRC's integrated solutions include inbound (customer-initiated) and outbound teleservices, e-commerce customer care services, information technology (including its proprietary Customer Relationship Management technology), database marketing and management and fulfillment services. PRC provides its clients with a cost-effective and efficient method for managing their growing customer service and marketing needs. PRC also offers a wide variety of information technology services, including the formulation and design of teleservicing and electronic applications, programming and demographic profiling, in each case, on a customized basis.
PRC's primary source of revenue is its customer care activities, which consist primarily of inbound and outbound teleservicing, as well as other activities, such as direct community with customers via e-mail, fax, letter and online chat/IP telephony, all of which involve direct communication with consumers. The majority of PRC's revenues are derived from inbound teleservicing, which consists of longer-term customer care and customer service programs that tend to be more predictable than other teleservicing revenues.
Competition. The customer care industry is very competitive and highly fragmented. Competitors range in size from very small firms offering specialized applications and short-term projects, to large independent and international firms and the in-house operations of many clients and potential clients, which comprises the largest segment of the teleservices industry. In addition, PRC competes with large technology and consulting firms.
Regulation. The industries served by PRC are subject to varying degrees of government regulation, including state qualification and licensing requirements. PRC works closely with its clients and their advisors to develop the scripts to be used by PRC personnel in making customer contacts and to comply with any state qualification and/or licensing requirements for eligibility to perform services for clients. PRC generally requires its clients to indemnify PRC against claims and expenses arising out of the client's business activities.
PRC's customer care activities involve direct communication with consumers and are subject to extensive regulation by federal and state regulatory authorities including, the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Regulations promulgated pursuant to this legislation prohibit the use of automatic telephone dialing systems, artificial and prerecorded messages and telephone facsimile machines to send unsolicited advertisements, as well as deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices. These regulations also regulate the timing of telemarketing calls and require that certain disclosures be made to consumers at both the outset of telemarketing transactions and prior to obtaining payment information. These regulations also authorized the creation and enforcement of a National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers are prohibited from calling consumers who place their number on the National Do Not Call Registry unless there is a pre-existing business relationship between the seller and the consumer.
IAC's businesses market and provide a broad range of goods and services through a number of different online and offline channels. As a result, IAC is subject to a wide variety of statutes, rules, regulations, policies and procedures in various jurisdictions in the United States and abroad, which are subject to change at any time. While many of these statutes, rules, regulations, policies and procedures are applicable to several IAC businesses, such as consumer protection and privacy laws (among others), certain of these statutes, rules, regulations, policies and procedures are industry-specific or more relevant to a particular IAC business, and as such, are as described above.
IAC businesses with an online component must comply with laws and regulations applicable to the Internet and businesses engaged in online commerce. An increasing number of existing and proposed laws and regulations apply directly to the Internet and commercial online services. For example, e-mail activities are subject to the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, or the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act regulates the sending of unsolicited, commercial electronic mail by requiring the sender to: (i) include an identifier that the message is an advertisement or solicitation if the recipient did not expressly agree to receive electronic mail messages from the sender, (ii) provide the recipient with an online opportunity to decline to receive further commercial electronic mail messages from the sender and (iii) list a valid physical postal address of the sender. The CAN-SPAM Act also prohibits predatory and abusive electronic mail practices and electronic mail with deceptive headings or subject lines.
In addition, there is currently uncertainty whether or how existing laws governing issues such as sales and other taxes, libel and privacy apply to the Internet and commercial online services. It is possible that existing laws and regulations may be amended, or new laws and regulations may be adopted to, address these and other issues. IAC cannot predict whether applicable jurisdictions will amend or enact such laws or regulations and what effect, if any, such laws or regulations would have on its business, financial condition or results of operations. For example, the issue of consumer privacy has received substantial attention from federal, state and foreign governments. This attention has resulted
in the enactment of certain laws and regulations, and the consideration of many other proposals, to safeguard consumer privacy. Pending proposals vary substantially, and it is uncertain which, if any, may become law. Some proposals would require companies that sell the same product both online and offline to treat customer information obtained in such transactions differently depending upon the sales medium used. Some proposals would allow companies to use customer information for various purposes, provided that consumers are given a choice and do not "opt out" of such uses, while other proposals would prohibit such uses unless consumers are given a choice and explicitly authorize such uses by "opting in."
IAC Intellectual Property Rights
IAC and its businesses regard their intellectual property rights, including their service marks, trademarks and domain names, copyrights, trade secrets and similar intellectual property, as critical to IAC's success. IAC's businesses also rely heavily upon software codes, informational databases and other components that make up their products and services.
IAC and its businesses rely on a combination of laws and contractual restrictions with employees, customers, suppliers, affiliates and others to establish and protect these proprietary rights. Despite these precautions, it may be possible for a third party to copy or otherwise obtain and use trade secret or copyrighted intellectual property of IAC or any of its businesses without authorization which, if discovered, might require the uncertainty of legal action to correct. In addition, there can be no assurance that others will not independently and lawfully develop substantially similar intellectual properties.
IAC and its businesses have registered and continue to apply to register, or secure by contract when appropriate, their respective trademarks and service marks as they are developed and used, and reserve and register domain names as they deem appropriate. While IAC and its businesses vigorously protect their respective trade and service marks and domain names, effective trademark protection may not be available or may not be sought in every country in which products and services are made available, and contractual disputes may affect the use of marks governed by private contract. Similarly, not every variation of a domain name may be available or be registered, even if available. The failure to protect the intellectual property of IAC's businesses in a meaningful manner or challenges to related contractual rights could materially adversely affect IAC's business, result in erosion of brand names and limit the ability of IAC and its businesses to control marketing on or through the Internet using their various domain names.
IAC and its businesses have considered, and will continue to consider, the appropriateness of filing for patents to protect future inventions, as circumstances may warrant. However, many patents protect only specific inventions and there can be no assurance that others may not create new products or methods that achieve similar results without infringing upon patents owned by IAC and its businesses.
From time to time, IAC and its businesses may be subject to legal proceedings and claims in the ordinary course of its business, including claims of alleged infringement of the trademarks, copyrights, patents and other intellectual property rights of third parties. In addition, litigation may be necessary in the future to enforce the intellectual property rights of IAC and its businesses, protect their respective trade secrets or to determine the validity and scope of proprietary rights claimed by others. Any such litigation, regardless of outcome or merit, could result in substantial costs and diversion of management and technical resources, any of which could materially harm IAC's business. Patent litigation tends to be particularly protracted and expensive.
As of December 31, 2004, IAC and its subsidiaries employed approximately 26,000 full-time employees across its various businesses. IAC believes that it generally has good employee relationships, including relationships with employees represented by unions or similar organizations.
Company Website and Public Filings. The Company maintains a website at www.iac.com. The information on the Company's website, as well as the websites of its various businesses, is not incorporated by reference in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, or in any other filings with, or in any information furnished or submitted to, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC.
The Company makes available, free of charge through its website, its Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and Current Reports on Form 8-K (including related amendments) as soon as reasonably practicable after they have been electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC.
Code of Ethics. The Company's code of ethics, which applies to all employees, including all executive officers and senior financial officers (including IAC's Chief Financial Officer and IAC's Controller) and directors, is posted on the Company's website at www.iac.com. The code of ethics complies with Item 406 of SEC Regulation S-K and the rules of the Nasdaq National Market. Any changes to the code of ethics that affect the provisions required by Item 406 of Regulation S-K, and any waivers of the code of ethics for IAC's executive officers, directors or senior financial officers, will also be disclosed on IAC's website.
IAC believes that the facilities for its management and operations are generally adequate for its current and anticipated future needs. IAC's facilities, most of which are leased, generally consist of executive and administrative offices, fulfillment facilities, warehouses, operations centers, call centers, data centers, television production and distribution facilities, satellite transponder sites and sales offices.
All of IAC's leases are at prevailing market, or "most favorable," rates. IAC believes that the duration of each lease is adequate. IAC believes that its principal properties, whether owned or leased, are adequate for the purposes for which they are used and are suitably maintained for these purposes. IAC does not anticipate any future problems renewing or obtaining suitable leases for its principal properties.
IAC leases approximately 45,550 square feet for its principal executive offices at Carnegie Hall Tower, 152 West 57th Street, New York, New York, which lease expires on April 30, 2007. IAC's domestic businesses and operations lease space in various cities and locations in: California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington. IAC, through HSN U.S., also owns warehouse facilities and an approximately 480,000 square foot facility in Florida that houses television studios, broadcast facilities, administrative offices and training facilities, as well as fulfillment centers in Iowa, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as one call center in Florida through PRC.
IAC's international businesses and operations lease space in various cities and locations in: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
In the ordinary course of business, the Company and its subsidiaries are parties to litigation involving property, personal injury, contract, and other claims. The amounts that may be recovered in such matters may be subject to insurance coverage.
Rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission require the description of material pending legal proceedings, other than ordinary, routine litigation incident to the registrant's business, and advise that proceedings ordinarily need not be described if they primarily involve damages claims for amounts
(exclusive of interest and costs) not exceeding 10% of the current assets of the registrant and its subsidiaries on a consolidated basis. In the judgment of management, none of the pending litigation matters which the Company and its subsidiaries are defending, including those described below, involves or is likely to involve amounts of that magnitude. The litigation matters described below involve issues or claims that may be of particular interest to the Company's shareholders, regardless of whether any of these matters may be material to the financial position or operations of the Company based upon the standard set forth in the SEC's rules.
Tax-Related Litigation against Vivendi
On April 15, 2003, IAC commenced an action in the Delaware Chancery Court, captioned USA Interactive and USANi Sub LLC v. Vivendi Universal, S.A., USI Entertainment Inc., and Vivendi Universal Entertainment LLLP, No. CA-20260 (New Castle County). This lawsuit arose out of the failure of Vivendi Universal Entertainment LLLP ("VUE"), a limited-liability limited partnership controlled at the start of the lawsuit by Vivendi, to pay to IAC and its affiliates, as partners in VUE, certain cash tax distributions due to them over a period of years under the express terms of the VUE partnership agreement.
The partnership agreement provides that VUE "shall, as soon as practicable after the close of each taxable year, make cash contributions to each Partner in an amount equal to the product of (a) the amount of taxable income allocated to such Partner for such taxable year... and (b) the highest aggregate marginal statutory Federal, state, local and foreign income tax rate... applicable to any Partner." The partnership agreement also provides that taxable income of VUE is to be allocated to the partners, including IAC and its affiliates, in a specified order, including amounts corresponding to the cash and pay-in-kind distributions on IAC's and its affiliates' preferred interests in VUE, which represent a 5% annual return on those interests (the "Preferred Return"). The actual amount of cash distributions with respect to taxable income on the Preferred Return would depend on several factors, including the amount of VUE's earnings and federal, state, and local income tax rates. Assuming sufficient VUE earnings in each of the twenty years from the date of the issuance of the VUE preferred interests and a discount rate of 7%, such cash distributions would have a present value to IAC of approximately $620 million.
The complaint requests the court to declare that VUE is obligated to pay to IAC and its affiliates cash tax distributions on the Preferred Return as they become due under the VUE partnership agreement, and to order VUE to make such payments. On June 30, 2003, the defendants filed an answer denying the material allegations of the complaint and asserting various affirmative defenses, as well as certain counterclaims. The counterclaims request the court to declare that VUE is not obligated under the partnership agreement to pay to IAC and its affiliates cash tax distributions on the Preferred Return or, in the alternative, to reform the partnership agreementon the grounds of mutual or, in the alternative, unilateral mistakeso that it no longer requires VUE to make such payments. On July 21, 2003, IAC filed a reply denying the material allegations of the defendants' counterclaims.
On January 30, 2004, IAC filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, on the grounds that the plain and clear language of the partnership agreement entitles IAC, as a matter of law, to the relief it seeks. The defendants opposed the motion, and the Court heard oral argument on May 12, 2004. On June 30, 2004, the Chancery Court issued a memorandum opinion in IAC's favor. The court ruled that the relevant provisions of the partnership agreement requiring the payment of cash tax distributions on the Preferred Return are clear and unambiguous on their face and that the defendants had not adequately pleaded facts supporting their defenses that those provisions were the result of either the parties' mutual or the defendants' unilateral mistake. On August 5, 2004, the Chancery Court entered a final order and judgment granting IAC's motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing the defendants' counterclaims with prejudice, ordering VUE to pay previously unpaid distributions, and
declaring that VUE is obligated, pursuant to the terms of the partnership agreement, to make the disputed tax distribution payments in the future.
On August 23, 2004, the defendants filed a notice of appeal from the Chancery Court's judgment to the Supreme Court of Delaware. On October 7, 2004, the defendants filed their opening brief. On November 8, 2004, IAC filed its responding brief. On November 23, 2004, the defendants filed their reply brief.
A panel of the Supreme Court heard oral argument on January 19, 2005. Later that day, the Supreme Court issued an order that the appeal will be argued before and determined by the Court en banc. Oral argument before the full Court has been scheduled for April 20, 2005.
Securities Class Action Litigation against IAC
On September 20, 2004, a purported shareholder class action, Steven Malasky, on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated v. IAC/InterActiveCorp et al., No. 04 Civ. 7447, was commenced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against IAC, certain of its officers, and one outside director, alleging violations of the federal securities laws. Thereafter, eleven other such lawsuits containing substantially similar allegations were filed in the same court. The complaints in these cases generally allege that the value of the Company's stock was artificially inflated by statements about its financial results and forecasts made prior to its August 4, 2004 announcement of its earnings for the second quarter of 2004, that were false and misleading due to the defendants' alleged failure to disclose various problems faced by the Company's travel businesses. The complaints purport to assert claims under Sections 10(b) and 20(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act") and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder and seek damages in an unspecified amount. The plaintiffs in most of these lawsuits seek to represent a class of shareholders who purchased IAC common stock between March 19, 2003 and August 4, 2004.
In rulings on December 20, 2004 and March 7, 2005, the district court consolidated the twelve lawsuits into a single action captioned In re IAC/InterActiveCorp Securities Litigation, appointed co-lead plaintiffs, and designated co-lead counsel. A consolidated amended complaint is expected to be filed in the second quarter of 2005. The Company intends to defend vigorously against this lawsuit.
On October 18, 2004, a related shareholder derivative action, Stuart Garber, Derivatively on Behalf of IAC/InterActiveCorp v. Barry Diller et al., No. 04-603416, was commenced in the Supreme Court of the State of New York (New York County) against IAC's directors and certain officers. The Company is a nominal defendant. This action is based on similar factual allegations as the federal securities class action described above. The complaint alleges, among other things, that the director defendants breached their fiduciary duties by failing to exercise their oversight responsibilities to ensure the integrity of the Company's business practices, financial reporting, and public statements. The complaint also purports to assert claims for misappropriation of confidential information for personal profit, contribution and indemnification. The complaint seeks damages in an unspecified amount and restitution of all remuneration paid by the Company to the individual defendants during the period of the alleged breach of duty.
On November 15, 2004, a second related shareholder derivative action, Lisa Butler, Derivatively on Behalf of IAC/InterActiveCorp v. Barry Diller et al., No. 04 Civ. 9067, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against IAC's current directors and certain former directors of the Company. The Company is a nominal defendant. The action is based on similar factual allegations as the federal securities class action and the other shareholder derivative suit described above. The complaint purports to assert claims for violation of Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act, breach of fiduciary duty, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, waste of corporate assets, and unjust enrichment. The complaint seeks an order voiding the election of the Company's current Board of Directors, as well as damages in an unspecified amount, various forms of equitable relief, restitution, and disgorgement of remuneration received by the individual defendants from the Company.
On January 24, 2005, the federal district court consolidated the Butler shareholder derivative suit with the consolidated securities class action for pre-trial purposes only. On February 2, 2005, the defendants in the Garber shareholder derivative suit removed the case from New York state court to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Litigation Relating to the IAC/Hotels.com Merger Agreement
On April 10, 2003, the day of the announcement of the IAC/Hotels.com merger agreement, a purported class action on behalf of Hotels.com shareholders was filed in the Delaware Chancery Court against Hotels.com, IAC, and members of the board of directors of Hotels.com. See Michael Garvey, on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated v. Jonathan F. Miller et al., No. 20248-NC (New Castle County). Also on April 10, 2003, the plaintiff in a purported shareholder derivative action on behalf of Hotels.com against certain officers and directors of Hotels.com, which was pending in Texas state court prior to the announcement of the merger transaction and had originally asserted derivative claims relating to Hotels.com's pre-merger earnings guidance (which claims are described more fully in a separate section below), filed an amended complaint to include class allegations regarding the merger transaction. See Alex Solodovnikov, Derivatively on Behalf of Hotels.com v. Robert Diener et al., No. 03-02663 (District Court, 160th Judicial District, Dallas County). In addition, on April 17, 2003, the plaintiffs in a consolidated action pending in the Delaware Chancery Court, which had consolidated a number of purported class actions filed against Hotels.com, IAC, and members of the board of directors of Hotels.com as a result of IAC's announcement in June 2002 of its intention to enter into a Hotels.com acquisition transaction, filed a consolidated and amended class-action complaint. See In re Hotels.com Shareholders Litigation, No. 16662-NC (New Castle County). Pursuant to an agreement among the parties, the defendants' time to respond to this complaint and to the complaint in the Garvey case has been adjourned indefinitely.
The complaints in the two Delaware actions and the class allegations in the complaint in the Texas action allege, in essence, that the defendants breached their fiduciary duties to Hotels.com's public shareholders by entering into and/or approving the merger agreement, which allegedly does not reflect the true value of Hotels.com. The complaints sought to enjoin consummation of the transaction or, in the alternative, to rescind the transaction, as well as damages in an unspecified amount.
On April 18, 2003, the Texas action (Solodovnikov) was removed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. On May 2, 2003, the plaintiff in this action filed a motion to remand the case to state court. On June 3, 2003, the plaintiff withdrew his motion to remand the case to state court and filed a motion in federal court for expedited discovery in anticipation of filing a motion for a preliminary injunction against consummation of the IAC/Hotels.com merger. The defendants opposed the motion. On June 16, 2003, the district court denied the plaintiff's motion for expedited discovery. On June 23, 2003, the IAC/Hotels.com merger transaction closed.
The Company believes that the allegations in these lawsuits are without merit and will continue to defend vigorously against them.
Litigation Relating to Hotels.com's Guidance for the Fourth Quarter of 2002
Securities Class Action. On January 10, 2003, a securities class action, Daniel Taubenfeld et al., on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated v. Hotels.com et al., No. 3:03-CV-0069-N, was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, arising out of Hotels.com's downward revision of its guidance for the fourth quarter of 2002. This lawsuit alleges that the defendants, Hotels.com and three of its former executives, violated the federal securities laws during the period from October 23, 2002 to January 6, 2003 (the "Class Period"). The defendants are alleged to have knowingly (i) made certain materially false and misleading public statements with respect to the anticipated performance of Hotels.com during the fourth quarter of 2002, and (ii) concealed from the investing public certain material events and developments that were likely to render that anticipated
performance unattainable. The individual defendants are further alleged to have profited from the rise in Hotels.com's share price caused by their public statements through sales of Hotels.com stock during the Class Period. The lawsuit further alleges that as a result of Hotels.com's announcement, on January 6, 2003, of a downward revision of its guidance for the fourth quarter of 2002, its share price declined by 25%. The lawsuit seeks certification of a class of all non-defendant purchasers of Hotels.com stock during the Class Period and seeks damages in an unspecified amount. Three other substantially similar securities class actions were filed in the same court shortly thereafter and were later consolidated with the Taubenfeld case.
On August 18, 2003, the lead plaintiffs in this action filed a consolidated class-action complaint. On October 31, 2003, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the consolidated complaint. The plaintiffs opposed the motion. On September 27, 2004, the district court issued an order granting the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. The court's ruling was based upon a number of grounds, including that certain of the statements complained of were forward-looking statements accompanied by appropriate cautionary language and thereby protected by the "safe harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, and that certain of the statements and omissions complained of were, as a matter of law, not material and therefore not actionable. The court dismissed all of the plaintiffs' claims with prejudice (i.e., without leave to replead them), with the exception of two claims involving statements by analysts. The plaintiffs have advised that they do not intend to attempt to replead those claims. On March 4, 2005, the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal of the district court's ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Shareholder Derivative Suit. Two shareholder derivative actions, Anita Pomilo Wilson, Derivatively on Behalf of Nominal Defendant Hotels.com v. Elan J. Blutinger et al., No. 3:03-CV-0501-K, and Alex Solodovnikov, Derivatively on Behalf of Hotels.com v. Robert Diener et al., No. 3:03-CV-0812-K, arising out of the same events as the consolidated securities class action, were removed to the same Texas federal district court after having been filed in Texas state court on January 14, 2003 and March 14, 2003, respectively. The defendants in these shareholder derivative actions are Hotels.com (as a nominal defendant only) and a number of current or former directors of Hotels.com. These lawsuits allege that the individual defendants who, during the period from October 25, 2002 to December 3, 2002, sold Hotels.com stock breached their fiduciary duty to Hotels.com by misappropriating, and trading and profiting on the basis of, proprietary, material non-public information concerning the financial condition and growth prospects of Hotels.com. The lawsuits also allege that all of the individual defendants aided and abetted the selling defendants' breaches of fiduciary duty by concealing from the market the information on the basis of which the selling defendants allegedly traded and profited. The lawsuits seek imposition of a constructive trust in favor of Hotels.com on the profits obtained by the selling defendants on their sales of Hotels.com stock during the period referred to above, as well as unspecified damages resulting from the individual defendants' alleged breaches of fiduciary duty.
On December 16, 2003, the two shareholder derivative actions were consolidated under the caption, In re Hotels.com Derivative Litigation, No. 3:03-CV-501-K (N.D. Tex.). On April 26, 2004, the lead plaintiff filed a consolidated amended complaint. The amended complaint, which asserts claims for breach of fiduciary duty, abuse of control, gross mismanagement, waste of corporate assets, and unjust enrichment against sixteen current or former directors of Hotels.com, seeks damages, restitution, and disgorgement of profits in an unspecified amount, together with the imposition of a constructive trust on those profits. The amended complaint reiterates the allegations of the two shareholder derivative actions described above and further alleges that certain of the individual defendants caused Hotels.com to enter into the IAC/Hotels.com merger transaction in order, among other self-interested reasons, to procure the dismissal of the previously filed derivative actions. In this respect, the amended complaint seeks a judicial declaration, on behalf of all pre-merger public shareholders of Hotels.com stock, that the IAC/Hotels.com merger agreement, which resulted in the IAC/Hotels.com merger transaction that closed on June 23, 2003, is unlawful and unenforceable.
On June 28, 2004, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the consolidated amended complaint. On December 1, 2004, the plaintiff opposed the motion. On December 16, 2004, the defendants filed their reply brief.
On October 18, 2004, the district court directed the parties to engage in mediation. On December 20, 2004, the parties engaged in mediation before a retired federal district judge. The mediation did not result in a resolution of this matter. On January 10, 2005, the parties, with the concurrence of the mediator, filed a joint motion requesting the district court to stay the shareholder derivative action pending resolution of the plaintiffs' contemplated appeal from the district court's dismissal of the related securities class action.
On February 23, 2005, the district court issued an order denying the defendants' motion to dismiss as well as the parties' joint motion for a stay. On March 7, 2005, the district court issued orders vacating its denial of the parties' stay motion, staying the case until further notice and directing that the case be administratively closed pending a decision in the appeal of the related securities class action.
The Company believes that both the securities class action and the shareholder derivative action lack merit and will continue to defend vigorously against them.
Litigation Relating to Hotel Occupancy Taxes
The Olvera Class Action Litigation. On June 20, 2003, a purported class action was filed in Texas state court against Hotels.com. See Nora J. Olvera, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated v. Hotels.com, Inc., No. DC-03-259 (District Court, 229th Judicial District, Duval County). The complaint alleges that Hotels.com collects "excess" hotel occupancy taxes from consumers (i.e., allegedly charges consumers more for occupancy taxes than it pays to the hotels for their use in satisfying their obligations to the taxing authorities). The complaint sought certification of a nationwide class of all persons who have purchased hotel accommodations from Hotels.com since June 20, 1999, as well as restitution of, disgorgement of, and the imposition of a constructive trust upon all "excess" occupancy taxes allegedly collected by Hotels.com. On July 14, 2003, Hotels.com filed a responsive pleading that denied the material allegations of the complaint and asserted a number of defenses, including that the allegations in the complaint are subject to mandatory arbitration.
On August 12, 2003, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint containing substantially the same factual allegations and requests for relief, but naming as defendants Hotels.com, L.P., Hotels.com (the parent company of the Hotels.com, L.P. operating business), and IAC. On September 8, 2003, the defendants filed responsive pleadings that denied the material allegations of the amended complaint and asserted a number of defenses, including that the allegations in the amended complaint are subject to mandatory arbitration and, in IAC's case, that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Company.
On January 24, 2004, the Hotels.com defendants filed a motion to stay the class-action litigation pending the outcome of an arbitration proceeding (described below) that had been commenced by the plaintiff. On January 30, 2004, the plaintiff opposed that motion and also filed a second amended complaint containing substantially the same factual allegations and requests for relief as her prior pleadings, but slightly modifying the class allegations to take account of the class period alleged in the arbitration proceeding.
On February 4, 2004, Hotels.com, L.P. filed a motion to dismiss the Olvera lawsuit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, based upon the named plaintiff's not being in fact a member of the class that she purports to represent. That motion, together with the Hotels.com defendants' motion to stay the lawsuit, was denied by the court on May 20, 2004.
On May 6, 2004, the plaintiff in the Olvera lawsuit filed a third amended complaint containing substantially the same factual allegations and requests for relief as her prior pleadings, but with additional allegations in support of her position that the court has personal jurisdiction over IAC.
On December 29, 2004, following the scheduling of a class certification hearing in the Canales lawsuit (as described below), the plaintiff in the Olvera lawsuit filed a motion for class certification. On February 16, 2005, the plaintiff in the Olvera lawsuit filed a motion to withdraw her request for class certification. The Hotels.com defendants do not oppose this motion.
The Olvera Arbitration. On September 25, 2003, the plaintiff in the Olvera litigation filed with the American Arbitration Association in Dallas, Texas, a demand for arbitration against Hotels.com, L.P. The arbitration claim contained substantially the same factual allegations as in the Olvera lawsuit. The arbitration was purportedly brought on behalf of a class comprised of all persons who have purchased hotel accommodations from Hotels.com since October 31, 2001. The claimant sought a determination that the arbitration is properly maintainable as a class proceeding and an order requiring disgorgement and restitution to the class members of excess profits allegedly derived from "assessing" hotel occupancy taxes that were neither owed nor paid to any taxing authority. On October 27, 2003, Hotels.com, L.P. filed a responsive pleading that denied the material allegations of the arbitration claim and asserted a number of defenses.
On May 6, 2004, Hotels.com, L.P. filed a motion to dismiss the Olvera arbitration claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, on the grounds that under Texas law the tax-based nature of the claim requires that it be adjudicated in a state administrative proceeding, not a private-party proceeding such as an arbitration. A hearing on that motion, as well as on the issue whether the governing arbitration clause permits the arbitration to be maintained as a class proceeding, was held on July 9, 2004.
On September 2, 2004, the arbitrator, accepting Hotels.com, L.P.'s position that the exclusive remedy for this type of tax-related claim is a state administrative proceeding, issued a final award dismissing Olvera's arbitration claim.
The Canales Class Action Litigation. On March 26, 2004, the plaintiff in a separate class action pending in Texas state court, Mary Canales, Individually and on Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated v. Hotels.com, L.P., No. DC-03-162 (District Court, 229th Judicial District, Duval County), filed a second amended complaint containing allegations that are substantially similar to allegations made in the Olvera lawsuit. On May 13, 2004, the plaintiff in the Canales lawsuit filed a third amended complaint alleging in essence (i) that Hotels.com charges customers "taxes" that exceed the amount required by or paid to the applicable taxing authorities, and (ii) that Hotels.com charges customers "fees" that do not correspond to any specific services provided. The amended pleading continues to seek nationwide class certification, asserts a claim only for breach of contract, and seeks damages in an unspecified amount.
Also on May 13, 2004, the plaintiff filed a motion for class certification. On June 24, 2004, Hotels.com, L.P. filed its opposition to that motion.
On July 9, 2004, the plaintiffs in the Olvera lawsuit filed a petition in intervention in the Canales lawsuit and a motion to stay the proceedings in that lawsuit or, alternatively, for a continuance of the hearing on the class-certification motion. The gravamen of the Olvera plaintiffs' intervention and motion is that the Canales plaintiff has transformed her lawsuit into a "copycat" of the Olvera lawsuit, to the potential detriment of the Olvera plaintiffs. On July 13, 2004, the Canales plaintiff filed a motion to strike the Olvera plaintiffs' intervention and motion. On August 2, 2004, the court heard argument on the two motions. On August 3, 2004, the court adjourned the hearing on the class-certification motion. On September 1, 2004, the court denied the Canales plaintiff's motion to strike the Olvera plaintiffs' intervention and motion.
On February 17, 2005, the court held a hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for class certification, as well as on the defendants' request for dismissal of the action on the same jurisdictional grounds on which Olvera's arbitration claim was dismissed.
City of Los Angeles Class Action. On December 30, 2004, the city of Los Angeles filed a purported class action in California state court against a number of Internet travel companies, including Hotels.com, Expedia, and Hotwire. See City of Los Angeles, California, on Behalf of Itself and All Others Similarly Situated v. Hotels.com, L.P. et al., No. BC326693 (Superior Court, Los Angeles County). The gravamen of this lawsuit, as in the Hotels.com consumer class action litigation described above, is that the defendants are improperly charging and/or failing to pay hotel occupancy taxes. The complaint seeks certification of a statewide class of all California cities and counties that have enacted uniform transient occupancy-tax ordinances effective on or after December 30, 1990. The complaint alleges violation of those ordinances, violation of section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code, and common-law conversion. The complaint seeks imposition of a constructive trust on all monies owed by the defendants to the government, as well as disgorgement, restitution, interest, and penalties.
Expedia. On January 10, 2005, two purported class actions were filed in Washington state court against Expedia and IAC. See C. Michael Nielsen et al. v. Expedia, Inc. et ano., No. 05-2-02060-1 (Superior Court, King County); Bruce Deaton et ano. v. Expedia, Inc. et ano., No. 05-2-02062-8 (Superior Court, King County). The gravamen of these nearly identical lawsuits, as in the Hotels.com consumer class action litigation described above, is that Expedia is improperly charging and/or failing to pay hotel occupancy taxes and engaging in other deceptive practices in charging customers for taxes and fees. The complaints seek certification of a nationwide class of all persons who were assessed a charge for "taxes/fees" when booking rooms through Expedia. The complaints allege violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and common-law conversion. The complaints seek imposition of a constructive trust on monies received from the plaintiff class, as well as damages in an unspecified amount, disgorgement, restitution, interest, and penalties.
On February 3, 2005, a third, substantially similar purported class action was filed in Washington state court against IAC and Expedia. See Jose Alba, on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated v. IAC/InterActiveCorp et ano., No. 05-2-04533-7 (Superior Court, King County). The complaint seeks nationwide class certification, alleges violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, and seeks damages in an unspecified amount, disgorgement, restitution, interest, and penalties.
On February 18, 2005, the Nielsen, Deaton, and Alba cases were consolidated into one action, In re Expedia Hotel Taxes and Fees Litigation, No. 05-2-02060-1 (Superior Court, King County). On March 7, 2005, Expedia removed this consolidated action from Washington state court to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Hotwire. On January 10, 2005 and January 13, 2005, respectively, two purported class actions were filed in California state court against Hotwire and IAC. See Bruce Deaton, on Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated v. Hotwire, Inc. et al., No. 05-437631 (Superior Court, San Francisco County); Jana Sneddon, on Behalf of Herself and All Others Similarly Situated v. Hotwire, Inc. et al., No. 05-437701 (Superior Court, San Francisco County). The gravamen of these nearly identical lawsuits, as in the Hotels.com and Expedia consumer class action litigation described above, is that Hotwire is improperly charging and/or failing to pay hotel occupancy taxes and engaging in other deceptive practices in charging customers for taxes and fees. The complaints seek certification of a nationwide class of all persons who were assessed a charge for "taxes/fees" when booking rooms through Hotwire. The complaints allege violation of Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code, violation of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and common-law conversion. The complaints seek imposition of a constructive trust on monies received from the plaintiff class, as well as damages in an unspecified amount, disgorgement, restitution, interest, and penalties.
On February 17, 2005, a third, substantially similar purported class action was filed in California state court against Hotwire. See Ashley Salisbury, on Behalf of Herself and All Others Similarly Situated and the General Public v. Hotwire, Inc. et al., No. 05-438781 (Superior Court, San Francisco County). The complaint seeks nationwide class certification, alleges violation of Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code and common-law conversion, and seeks the imposition of a constructive trust on monies received from the plaintiff class, damages in an unspecified amount, disgorgement, restitution, and injunctive relief.
On March 7, 2005, Hotwire and IAC removed these three purported class actions from California state court to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
Consumer Class Action against Various Internet Travel Companies. On February 17, 2005, a purported class action was filed in California state court against a number of Internet travel companies, including Expedia and Hotels.com (as well as IAC). See Ronald Bush et al. v. CheapTickets, Inc. et al., No. BC329021 (Superior Court, Los Angeles County). The gravamen of this lawsuit, as in the Hotels.com, Expedia, and Hotwire consumer class action litigation described above, is that the defendants are improperly charging and/or failing to pay hotel occupancy taxes and engaging in other deceptive practices in charging customers for taxes and fees. The complaint seeks certification of a statewide class of all California residents who were assessed a charge for "taxes/fees" when booking rooms through the defendants. The complaint alleges violation of Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code and common-law conversion. The complaint seeks the imposition of a constructive trust on monies received from the plaintiff class, as well as damages in an unspecified amount, disgorgement, restitution, and injunctive relief.
The Company believes that the claims in all of these litigations relating to hotel occupancy taxes lack merit and will continue to defend vigorously against them.
Tickets.com Antitrust Litigation
In July 1999, Ticketmaster OnlineCitysearch, Inc. and Ticketmaster Corporation (together, "Ticketmaster") commenced an action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Tickets.com, Inc. ("Tickets.com"). See Ticketmaster Corp. et ano. v. Tickets.com, Inc., No. 99-07654 (C.D. Cal.). The complaint alleged that Tickets.com was violating Ticketmaster's legal and contractual rights by, among other things, (i) providing deep-links to Ticketmaster's internal web pages without its consent, (ii) deceptively and systematically accessing Ticketmaster's computer systems and thereupon copying Ticketmaster event pages and extracting and reprinting on Tickets.com's website Ticketmaster's uniform resource locators ("URL 's") and event information, and (iii) providing false and misleading information about Ticketmaster, the availability of tickets on Ticketmaster's website, and the relationship between Ticketmaster and Tickets.com. In January 2000, Ticketmaster filed an amended complaint. In February 2000, Tickets.com filed a motion to dismiss that pleading, which was denied in part and granted in part with leave to amend. In April 2000, Ticketmaster filed a second amended complaint.
In May 2000, Tickets.com filed its answer to Ticketmaster's second amended complaint, as well as a number of counterclaims against Ticketmaster. The counterclaims alleged violations by Ticketmaster of the federal antitrust laws (Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act), the California antitrust laws (the Cartwright Act), and Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code, sought declaratory relief, and also contained common-law claims for restraint of trade, unfair competition and unfair business practices, and interference with contract. Tickets.com alleged that Ticketmaster Corporation's exclusive agreements with Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch, Inc., venues, promoters, and others injure competition, violate antitrust laws, constitute unfair competition, and interfere with Tickets.com's prospective economic advantage. In July 2002, the district court dismissed, on consent, Tickets.com's claims that Ticketmaster had commenced litigation against Tickets.com and others for predatory and/or anticompetitive purposes. In September 2002, the court dismissed, on consent, Tickets.com's claims
allegedly brought on behalf of the public under Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code.
On January 22, 2003, the district court dismissed, on consent, certain of Tickets.com's counterclaims, namely those alleging: violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act; conspiracy to monopolize; common-law restraint of trade; violation of Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code by reason of a contract between Ticketmaster Corporation and Ticketmaster OnlineCitysearch, Inc.; interference with prospective economic advantage; and common-law unfair competition and unfair business practices. On January 28, 2003, the parties agreed to the dismissal of certain of Ticketmaster's claims, namely those alleging: unfair competition and false designation of origin; reverse passing off; false advertising; violation of Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code by reason of unfair business practices; and interference with prospective economic advantage. Discovery in this case was extensive and ended on January 31, 2003.
On February 3, 2003, Ticketmaster and Tickets.com each filed a motion for summary judgment. On March 3, 2003, the district court ruled on the motions, (i) granting summary judgment dismissing all of Tickets.com's antitrust counterclaims under federal and state law and (ii) granting summary judgment dismissing all of Ticketmaster's claims with the exception of its claim for breach of contract. The court's rulings left Ticketmaster with a claim for breach of contract and Tickets.com with a counterclaim for unfair business practices under Section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code. On March 17, 2003, the court dismissed these remaining state-law claims, without prejudice, for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. On March 25, 2003, the district court entered a final judgment dismissing the action in its entirety.
On April 10, 2003, Tickets.com filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from that part of the district court's judgment dismissing Tickets.com's federal and state antitrust counterclaims against Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster elected not to cross-appeal from the district court's dismissal of its claims against Tickets.com. On August 27, 2003, Tickets.com filed its opening brief on appeal. On October 27, 2003, Ticketmaster filed its answering brief. On November 26, 2003, Tickets.com filed its reply brief. On February 16, 2005, the court of appeals heard oral argument on the appeal.
The Company continues to believe that, as reflected in the district court's ruling dismissing them, Tickets.com's antitrust claims against Ticketmaster are without merit, and will continue to defend vigorously against them on appeal.
HSN Consumer Class Action Litigations
Illinois. In November 1999, Home Shopping Network, Inc. ("HSN") was sued in a putative consumer class action filed in Illinois state court. See Bruce Tompkins et al. v. Proteva, Inc. et al., No. 99 CH 12013 (Circuit Court, Chancery Division, Cook County). The lawsuit was brought on behalf of consumers who purchased a Proteva personal computer from one of the defendants and experienced one of the following: (i) the computer was defective upon purchase or shortly thereafter; (ii) a defendant did not honor a rebate offer which had been made as part of the sale; or (iii) a defendant did not provide customer or warranty service as advertised. The complaint asserted claims for consumer fraud, breach of the implied warranty of merchantability, and unjust enrichment and sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys' fees. HSN filed an answer denying the material allegations of the complaint as to it.
The plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint that, among other things, added a claim for breach of express warranty and added four corporate defendants, including Home Shopping Club LP. In May 2000, HSN and Home Shopping Club LP (together, "HSN") filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. That motion resulted in an order requiring the plaintiffs to amend the complaint again. In June 2000, a second amended complaint was filed, adding claims for negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract. In December 2000, a third amended complaint was filed,
dropping the three non-HSN corporate defendants that had been added earlier and dropping the claims for negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract. In July 2001, a fourth amended complaint was filed. HSN filed answers to the second, third, and fourth amended complaints, denying their material allegations as to it.
In February 2001, the plaintiffs filed a motion for certification of a nationwide class, which HSN and the other defendants opposed. In December 2001, the court declined to certify a nationwide class and instead limited certification to a class of consumers resident in the state of Illinois.
In July 2002, HSN filed a motion for summary judgment. In March 2003, the court denied the motion. The parties have engaged in substantial discovery.
Florida. In May 2002, Home Shopping Network, Inc. and Home Shopping Club LP (together, "HSN") were sued in a putative consumer class action filed in Florida state court. See Susan DiCicco v. Home Shopping Network, Inc. et ano., No. 02-3625-CI-19 (Circuit Court, Civil Division, Pinellas County). The operative factual allegations and legal claims in the lawsuit also involve the sale and servicing of Proteva personal computers and are substantially the same as those in the Illinois lawsuit described above. The complaint asserts claims against HSN for violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, breach of contract, breach of express and implied warranty, and unjust enrichment, and seeks damages, disgorgement of profits, and attorneys' fees. In August 2002, HSN filed an answer denying the material allegations of the complaint.
California. In May 2003, Home Shopping Network, Inc. and HSN Direct, Inc. (together, "HSN") were sued in a putative consumer class action filed in California state court. See Dorothy Friedmann v. HSN Direct, Inc. et al., No. BC-295766 (Superior Court, Los Angeles County). Like the Illinois and Florida lawsuits described above, this lawsuit arises out of the sale of allegedly defective Proteva personal computers. The complaint alleges that HSN, in marketing Proteva computers during the 1996-99 period, engaged in unlawful, unfair, and deceptive trade practices and false advertising, in violation of the California Business and Professions Code. The complaint seeks class certification, restitution of amounts paid, disgorgement of profits, and imposition of a constructive trust on amounts received from HSN's sale of Proteva computers. In July 2003, HSN filed an answer denying the material allegations of the complaint.
Counsel for the parties engaged in discussions concerning a possible resolution of these Illinois, Florida, and California cases and retained a mediator to facilitate those discussions. On June 10, 2004, HSN and the plaintiffs in these cases entered into a Class Action Settlement and Release Agreement (the "Agreement") resolving all of the cases on terms not material to the Company. Pursuant to the Agreement, and subject to the jurisdiction and approval of the court in the Illinois case, a nationwide settlement would be effectuated through the submission of claims by class members, who would receive cash payments in amounts based primarily upon the seriousness of the problems they encountered and their ability to substantiate those problems with documentation.
On September 10, 2004, the court in the Illinois case issued an order approving the nationwide class settlement on the terms outlined in the Agreement. The deadline for class members' submission of claims to the settlement administrator was October 11, 2004. The process of evaluating submitted claims and paying valid claims out of the available settlement fund is expected to conclude in the first quarter of 2005.
Item 4. Submission of Matters to a Vote of Security Holders
There were no matters submitted to a vote of any of the Company's security holders during the fourth quarter of 2004.
Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Market for Registrant's Common Equity and Related Stockholder Matters
IAC Common Stock is quoted on The Nasdaq Stock Market, or "NASDAQ," under the ticker symbol "IACI." There is no established public trading market for IAC Class B Common Stock. The following table sets forth, for the calendar periods indicated, the high and low sales prices per share for IAC Common Stock as reported on NASDAQ:
As of March 14, 2005, there were approximately 5,200 holders of record of the Company's Common Stock and the closing price of IAC Common Stock was $22.53. Because many of the outstanding shares of IAC Common Stock are held by brokers and other institutions on behalf of shareholders, IAC is not able to estimate the total number of beneficial shareholders represented by these record holders.
As of March 14, 2005, there were 10 holders of record of the Company's Class B Common Stock. IAC has paid no cash dividends on its Common Stock or Class B Common Stock to date and does not anticipate paying cash dividends on its Common Stock or Class B Common Stock in the immediate future.
During the quarter ended December 31, 2004, the Company did not issue or sell any shares of its Common Stock or other equity securities pursuant to unregistered transactions in reliance upon an exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
The following table sets forth purchases by the Company of its Common Stock during the quarter ended December 31, 2004:
The following table presents selected historical financial data of IAC for each of the years in the five-year period ended December 31, 2004. This data was derived from IAC's audited consolidated financial statements and reflects the operations and financial position of IAC at the dates and for the periods indicated. The information in this table should be read with the financial statements and accompanying notes and other financial data pertaining to IAC included herein. In August 2001, the Company completed its sale of all of the capital stock of certain USA Broadcasting ("USAB") subsidiaries that own 13 full-power television stations and minority interests in four additional full-power stations to Univision Communications Inc. ("Univision"). On May 7, 2002, IAC completed its transaction with Vivendi Universal, S.A. ("Vivendi") in which IAC's USA Entertainment Group, consisting of USA Cable, Studios USA, and USA Films, was contributed to Vivendi Universal Entertainment LLLP, a joint venture then controlled by Vivendi. In addition, during the second quarter of 2003, USA Electronic Commerce Solutions ("ECS"), Styleclick, Inc. and Avaltus, Inc., a subsidiary of PRC, ceased operations. The financial position and results of operations of these companies as well as USAB and USA Entertainment Group have been presented as discontinued operations in the following table.
Item 7: Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
IAC operates leading and diversified businesses in sectors being transformed by the internet, online and offline . . . our mission is to harness the power of interactivity to make daily life easier and more productive for people all over the world. IAC currently operates a diversified portfolio of specialized and global brands in the travel, retailing, ticketing, personals, media, financial services, real estate and teleservices industries. IAC enables billions of dollars of consumer-direct transactions for products and services via the internet and telephone.
IAC consists of the following segments:
For further information regarding the operations of these segments, see Note 1 to the Consolidated Financial Statements, beginning on page 90, and "Item 1Business," beginning on page 1.
On December 21, 2004, IAC announced its plans relating to the Spin-Off. Following the completion of the Spin-Off:
Set forth below are the contributions made by our various reporting segments to consolidated revenue, operating income and Operating Income Before Amortization (as defined in IAC's Principles
of Financial Reporting) for the years ended December 31, 2004 and 2003 (dollars in millions, rounding differences may occur):
Principal Products, Services, Sources of Revenue
For the years ended December 31, 2004 and 2003, IAC Travel was our largest financial contributor. Through its various businesses and investments, IAC Travel makes available a variety of travel-related products and services from a wide array of travel suppliers on a stand-alone and package basis, through its merchant and agency businesses. During 2004, revenues from the worldwide booking of hotel rooms, particularly merchant hotel rooms (in which IAC Travel has certain latitude to establish and change prices charged to customers but does not typically assume inventory risk) continued to be an important part of IAC Travel's business.
Following the completion of the Spin-Off, we expect that Electronic Retailing and Ticketing will be our largest financial contributors. In Electronic Retailing, the majority of our revenue, operating income and Operating Income Before Amortization are derived from the sale of merchandise promoted through our television programming via telephone or the Internet. We take inventory of most of the products we sell through Electronic Retailing.
Our Ticketing business, principally Ticketmaster, is primarily an agency business that sells tickets for events on behalf of our clients and retains a convenience charge and order processing fee for our services. We sell these tickets through a combination of websites, telephone services and ticket outlets.
Our Financial Services and Real Estate businesses generally are compensated on a fee basis by the lenders, real estate brokers and agents who participate in our services. Home Loan Center principally derives its revenues from fees from borrowers and the sale of loans into the secondary markets. Teleservices is generally compensated on a fee basis, based on the level of services provided. Personals offers its own interactive services on a membership/subscription basis and IAC Local and Media Services businesses offer products and services that target the local market and are compensated based on products and services delivered.
Our businesses rely heavily on technology to deliver outstanding services to our customers. We seek to make available a broad range and unique selection of products and services to our customers, as well as relevant information about those products and services and convenience and ease of use, including first class customer service, combined with great value and a unique merchant sensibility.
Channels of Distribution; Marketing Costs
We market and offer products and services directly to customers through branded websites, pay television and broadcast television stations, telephone sales and membership programs, allowing our customers to transact directly with us in a convenient manner. We have made, and expect to continue to make, substantial investments in online and offline advertising to build our brands and drive traffic to our brands and businesses.
We also pay to market and distribute our services on third party distribution channels, such as Internet portals and search engines. In addition, some of our businesses manage affiliate programs, pursuant to which we pay commissions and fees to third parties based on revenue earned. In many cases, these distribution channels also offer their own products and services, as well as those of other third parties, that compete with those made available and offered by our businesses.
The cost of acquiring new customers through online and offline third party distribution channels has increased, particularly in the case of online channels as internet commerce continues to grow and competition in the segments in which IAC's businesses operate increases. Also, we continue to place an increased emphasis on retaining current customers. As a result of these continued efforts, we expect sales and marketing expense as a percentage of revenue to continue to increase. While sales and marketing expense as a percentage of revenue (on a comparable net basis) increased from approximately 17% in 2003 to approximately 19% in 2004, Operating Income Before Amortization margin (on a comparable net basis) increased from approximately 16% in 2003 to approximately 17% in 2004.
Access to Supply
Our various businesses provide supplier partners with important customer acquisition channels, in some cases through multiple IAC brands, and we believe that the ability of our supplier partners to reach a large audience through our services is a great benefit. Many of our businesses, including our travel, retailing, financial services and real estate businesses, offer our customers the choice of multiple suppliers in one setting. While we aim to build and maintain strong relationships with our supplier partners, we may not succeed in these efforts and there is always the risk that certain supplier partners may not make their products and services available to us in the future, including suppliers of travel services, suppliers of goods sold through HSN U.S. and HSN International, parties for whom we sell tickets and financial service and real estate providers that participate on related LendingTree exchanges. Additionally, in certain industries in which IAC's businesses operate there has been increased emphasis by supplier partners on their own direct sale of products and services through their own direct channels. We are unable to predict if this will develop in other industries in which IAC's businesses operate.
We continue to place great emphasis on international markets as we look to further expand the presence of certain of our brands and businesses abroad, particularly in Europe, given the large consumer marketplace for the goods and services that these brands and businesses offer. Although newer foreign markets generally lag the U.S. in online adoption, we believe they generally exhibit similar characteristics of the U.S. in regards to customer acceptance of an online marketplace. As a percentage of total IAC revenue (on a comparable net basis), international operations represented approximately 18%, 17% and 12% in 2004, 2003 and 2002, respectively.
Economic and Other Trends and Events; Industry Specific Factors
Most of IAC's businesses are sensitive to the rate at which the purchase of products and services migrate online. For the online components of IAC's various businesses, revenues are generally more
meaningfully impacted by the rate at which the purchase of related products or services migrates online globally than the rate at which the related industry grows, although this could change as online adoption progresses. In addition, online migration of traditional offline businesses, such as retailing and ticketing, favorably impacts results, as online sales transactions are processed with little or no increased costs, as compared to offline sales for which increased call center and other costs are incurred. We also expect rates of online adoption to grow internationally and we continue to devote significant resources to international expansion efforts. Our financial services and real estate businesses are impacted by the demand for mortgage loans in the U.S. and the strength of the U.S. housing market.
Results of Operations for the Year Ended December 31, 2004 compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2003
IAC Consolidated Results
Revenue decreased $135.4 million, or 2%, although on a comparable net basis, revenue increased $804.2 million, or 15%. As previously noted, IAC began to report revenues from Hotels.com on a net basis in the first quarter of 2004, and we have provided prior year results as though they had been reported on a net basis for better comparability. Growth was primarily driven by revenue increases of $446.0 million, or 27%, from IACT and $142.2 million, or 8%, from HSN U.S., as well as increased revenue of $134.0 million from LendingTree, which was acquired in August 2003.
Gross profit increased $509.6 million, or 18%, reflecting improved operating results of IACT, driven by the merchant hotel business, the air business and packages, and Electronic Retailing, which was driven primarily by improved results at EUVÍA and higher margins at HSN U.S.
Selling and marketing expenses increased $273.9 million, or 29%. As a percentage of comparable net revenue, selling and marketing expense increased to 19% in 2004 from 17% in 2003 reflecting, in part, the impact of acquisitions, as LendingTree, Hotwire and TripAdvisor generally have higher selling and marketing expenses as a percentage of revenue than IAC overall. In addition, IACT's selling and marketing expense increased as a percentage of revenue as IACT has placed greater emphasis on its international businesses, which have a higher selling and marketing cost relative to revenue due to earlier stages of development, and the inclusion of Hotwire in the 2004 results. Selling and marketing expense for 2003 included the $4.6 million write-down of a satellite distribution contract at TV Travel Shop.
General and administrative expenses increased $35.1 million, or 5%, due primarily to increased headcount at certain IACT companies and the inclusion of the full year of LendingTree, Hotwire and Entertainment Publications in the 2004 results. These increases were partially offset by a decrease at IACT due to the reclassification of certain general and administrative expenses to cost of sales as a result of Hotels.com reporting revenues on a net basis consistent with Expedia's historical practices.
The 2004 restructuring charge is principally comprised of (1) asset impairments and severance costs related to the shut down of HSN's Salem, VA facility as HSN migrates certain operations to its new fulfillment center in Tennessee and (2) severance and other costs associated with the elimination of certain non-core business lines at the Personals segment. These charges were partially offset by the reversal of reserves related primarily to the favorable resolution of a contractual arrangement with a supplier, as well as the settlement of an uncollectible receivable that had been written off in 2003 related to the restructuring of HSN's U.K. offices. The 2003 restructuring charge principally consists of (1) a write-down of a receivable from the 2002 restructuring of HSN's U.K. offices, (2) facility closure costs at uDate's Derby, U.K. facility as the back-office operations of uDate were combined with Match International, and (3) costs related to employee terminations due principally to the decline in the teleservicing market that resulted in excess capacity. Such 2003 restructuring charges were offset by the reversals of contingent costs for terminated employees, which are no longer probable of occurrence.
Depreciation expense increased $7.1 million, or 4%, due primarily to capital expenditures of $223.8 million during the year offset by certain fixed assets becoming fully depreciated throughout 2004. Comparisons to prior year were impacted by a $4.7 million write-down of packaging technology at Hotels.com recognized in 2003 as a result of Hotels.com adopting Expedia's packaging technology.
Operating Income Before Amortization increased $164.4 million, or 19%, due primarily to the improved operating results of IACT, the Electronic Retailing segment and the Ticketing segment, as well as the inclusion of the full year of LendingTree in 2004 results.
In the fourth quarter of 2004, the Company recorded an impairment charge related to the write-down to the goodwill of the Teleservices segment of $184.8 million, before tax, which was recorded as a component of operating income (loss) in the accompanying consolidated statement of operations. The write-down was determined by comparing the fair value of the business and the implied value of the goodwill with the carrying amounts on the balance sheet. The write-down primarily resulted from continued competition and macroeconomic factors which have negatively impacted industry valuations. The goodwill impairment charge recorded in 2004 resulted from the Company's annual impairment review for goodwill and intangible assets, which took place in the fourth quarter in connection with the preparation of our year-end financial statements.
Operating income decreased $167.7 million, or 42%, reflecting the goodwill impairment charge of $184.8 million noted above, as well as increased non-cash compensation of $113.5 million, or 89%, and increased amortization of intangibles of $79.0 million, or 29%, partially offset by a decrease in non-cash distribution and marketing expense of $33.4 million, or 65%. This net increase in charges offset the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization discussed above. The increase in non-cash compensation principally resulted from a full year of expense related to unvested stock options, warrants and restricted stock assumed in IAC's 2003 mergers with its formerly publicly traded subsidiaries and the acquisition of LendingTree included in 2004 results. This non-cash compensation is recorded over the remaining vesting period of the equity awards and therefore will decline over time as the awards vest. The increase in the amortization of intangibles was principally due to IAC's 2003 mergers with Expedia and Hotels.com, as well as the acquisition of LendingTree in August 2003. An impairment charge of $32.7 million was recorded in the fourth quarter of 2004 in connection with the write-off of certain intangible assets of TV Travel Shop, which has been included in amortization of intangibles in the accompanying consolidated statement of operations. This impairment was recorded due to management's reassessment of TV Travel Shop's expected future financial performance. The decrease in the amortization of non-cash distribution and marketing expense was principally due to the termination of the Hotels.com distribution agreement with Travelocity in September 2003.
Interest income increased $15.9 million in 2004 compared with 2003 as a result of higher interest rates and increased income from VUE preferred securities. Interest expense decreased $5.5 million in 2004 compared to 2003 due primarily to the repurchase in 2003 of $92.2 million of the Company's $500 million 63/4% Senior Notes issued in 1998, as well as the impact of interest rate swap arrangements entered into in late 2003 and 2004 which effectively changed the interest rate on a portion of the debt.
The Company realized equity income from its investment in Vivendi Universal Entertainment LLLP ("VUE") in 2004 of $16.2 million compared with a loss in 2003 of $224.5 million. During the first quarter of 2003, IAC received the audited financial statements of VUE for the year ended December 31, 2002, which disclosed that VUE had recorded an impairment charge for goodwill and intangible assets and other long-lived assets of $4.5 billion in the period May 7, 2002 to December 31, 2002 based upon VUE management's review of the estimated fair value of VUE as of December 31, 2002. Because of delays in VUE's financial reporting, IAC records its 5.44% proportionate share of the results of VUE on a one-quarter lag. The charge taken by IAC in the first quarter of 2003 was approximately $245 million, before a tax benefit of $96 million.
Equity in the income of unconsolidated subsidiaries and other income (expense) increased by $21.9 million due primarily to (1) a $10.9 million increase in the equity income of unconsolidated subsidiaries of HSN International, including TVSN and Jupiter Shop Channel, (2) losses on the repurchase of bonds of $8.6 million recorded in the 2003 period and (3) an increase in foreign currency exchange gains.
The effective tax rate from continuing operations was 47% in 2004 as compared to 27% in 2003. The 2004 rate is higher than the federal statutory rate of 35% due principally to the impairment of goodwill that is not deductible for tax purposes, state and local taxes, the amortization of non-deductible intangible assets and the recognition of a valuation allowance on tax losses, partially offset by the benefit of utilization of foreign tax credits. The 2003 rate was lower than the federal statutory rate of 35% due principally to the reversal of valuation allowances and a decrease in deferred tax liabilities due to a change in the effective state tax rate. The reversal of valuation allowances in 2003 was based on an assessment that it was probable that the related tax benefits would be realized. The effective state tax rate decreased as a result of IAC's mergers with its formerly public subsidiaries in 2003 and the Vivendi transaction in 2002. Partially offsetting these decreases in income taxes were earnings in foreign jurisdictions that were taxed at rates higher than 35% and amortization of non-deductible intangible assets.
Minority interest principally represents minority ownership in HSE-Germany and EUVÍA in 2004 and 2003, as well as the public's minority ownership in Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia until the date of their respective buy-ins in 2003. Minority interest in the income of consolidated subsidiaries decreased $51.3 million due primarily to the buy-out of the respective minority interests as a result of IAC's 2003 mergers with its formerly publicly traded subsidiaries.
In the second quarter of 2003, USA Electronic Commerce Solutions ("ECS"), Styleclick, Inc. and Avaltus, Inc., a subsidiary of PRC, ceased operations. Accordingly, the results of operations and statement of position of these businesses are presented as discontinued operations for all periods presented. The loss from discontinued operations in 2004 was $20.9 million, principally due to an adjustment in the second quarter of 2004 to the deferred tax liability of our investment in Styleclick to reflect minority interest, which resulted in a reduction of a tax benefit recorded in 2002 when the deferred tax liabilities of our investment in Styleclick were originally reversed. Income from discontinued operations in 2003 was $40.7 million, principally due to a tax benefit recognized due to the shut-down of Styleclick.
The following discussion is based upon comparable net revenue amounts:
Revenue grew 27%, primarily driven by the merchant hotel business, the air business and packages, all of which benefited from the inclusion of Hotwire as of November 5, 2003.
Merchant hotel revenue increased 24% due to an increase in merchant hotel room nights stayed, as well as an increase in revenue per room night. Merchant hotel room nights stayed, including rooms booked as a component of packages, increased 21% to 31.7 million, reflecting continued growth in demand from IACT's international websites, the inclusion of Hotwire in the 2004 results and growth in IACT's private label business. Revenue per room night increased 3%, due primarily to increases in average daily room rates, partially offset by a decline in merchant hotel raw margins (defined as merchant hotel net revenue as a percent of gross bookings).
IACT's U.S. merchant hotel business continues to operate in a more challenging environment than in the prior year, due primarily to increased competition from third party distributors, increased promotion by hotel chains of their own direct sites and higher overall occupancy rates, resulting in decreased availability of favorably priced travel products and services compared with the prior year period. These trends are generally expected to continue.
Revenue from international websites increased 66%, or 54% on a local currency basis, to $397.3 million in 2004 from $239.2 million in 2003. The United Kingdom, German and Canadian websites, as well as the inclusion of www.anyway.com and Expedia Corporate Travel-Europe in 2004 results, contributed to the international growth. Full-service IACT-branded websites were also introduced in France and Italy in late June 2004.
Revenue from global travel packages, which allow customers to customize their travel by combining air, hotel, car and other stand-alone travel products, was up 27% from 2003, due to improved package options.
Overall revenue margins (defined as net revenue as a percent of gross bookings) decreased by 60 basis points, due primarily to lower merchant hotel raw margins and lower air revenue per transaction, partially offset by higher merchant hotel average daily rates. We expect these trends to continue in the near term. While air revenue per transaction was lower, air transaction volume increased over the prior year period, driven by domestic and international ticket sales and the inclusion of Hotwire.
Operating Income Before Amortization grew 20% due primarily to increased revenues as discussed above, profitability at Expedia Europe and margin improvement at Interval. In addition, Operating Income Before Amortization was impacted by a 43% increase in selling and marketing expense. The increase in selling and marketing expenses was driven by search related costs and increased marketing volume, as well as higher costs of traffic acquisitions online and greater emphasis on our international businesses, which have a higher selling and marketing cost relative to revenue due to earlier stages of development and the inclusion of Hotwire for the full year in the 2004 results. International selling and marketing expense increased 92%. IACT was also favorably impacted in 2004 by a $12.1 million net reserve adjustment primarily related to the reversal of an air excise tax reserve and the resolution of a contractual dispute. Comparisons of Operating Income Before Amortization to prior year results were also favorably impacted by certain charges in 2003 including (1) a write-down of $4.7 million by Hotels.com of its packaging software as it migrated to Expedia's packaging technology and (2) a write-down of $4.6 million by TV Travel Shop related to the termination of a satellite contract.
Operating income grew 24% due to the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above as well as (1) a decrease in non-cash distribution and marketing expense of $25.2 million due primarily to the termination of Hotels.com's distribution agreement with Travelocity, (2) a decrease in non-cash compensation of $16.2 million at IACT due to IAC's 2003 mergers with Expedia and Hotels.com resulting in the conversion of all Expedia and Hotels.com stock options, warrants, and restricted stock into IAC equity awards and (3) a decrease in merger costs of $11.7 million associated with IAC's mergers with Expedia and Hotels.com. These items were partially offset by an increase in the amortization of intangibles of $74.6 million principally due to the intangible asset impairment charge of $32.7 million at TV Travel Shop as well as increases in intangible amortization related to IAC's 2003 merger with Expedia and Hotels.com.
IACT does not collect or remit occupancy tax on the portion of hotel customer payments that it retains for the intermediary services it provides in connection with its merchant hotel business. While discussions and developments relating to this practice are ongoing in various tax jurisdictions and the issue is the subject of several ongoing lawsuits, IAC continues to believe the issue will not have a material adverse effect on its past or future financial results.
Revenue grew 8% primarily as a result of a 10% increase in average price point and a 150 basis point decline in return rates, partially offset by a 3% decrease in units shipped. As part of this growth, HSN.com increased revenues by 21% over the prior year. Overall, the product mix shifted from 2003 resulting in a decrease in sales of Jewelry and increases in sales of Health and Beauty and Home Fashions in 2004. This shift increased the average price point, as Home Fashions, which comprise a wide array of items such as home furnishings and accessories and cookware, generally carry higher sales prices and lower return rates, as compared to Jewelry. In addition the average price point increased for most product categories year over year.
Operating Income Before Amortization grew 16%, due primarily to the growth in revenue, and an increase in gross profit margins by 20 basis points, due primarily to the shift in product mix to products that carry lower return rates, as well as margin improvements within the product mixes. Lower return rates impact both revenue and gross margins, as lower returns result in lower warehouse processing costs and lower inventory mark-downs for goods that are not resalable at full retail price. The impact of the decline in overall return rates on gross profit was $13.5 million. Operating Income Before Amortization was also impacted by increased customer service costs, including costs relating to HSN's new distribution facility in Tennessee, which opened in October 2004, and by results of the infomercial and catalog businesses, which have lower operating margins relative to the television business. The 2004 results were also impacted by (1) a $3.5 million impairment charge related to the closure of the warehouse facility in Salem, VA and (2) the reversal of a reserve of $2.5 million as a result of the final resolution of a legal dispute.
Operating income grew 21% due primarily to the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above.
As noted in previous Company filings, the majority of the USA Broadcasting stations sold to Univision were located in the largest markets in the country and aired HSN on a 24-hour basis. As of January 2002, HSN switched its distribution in these markets directly to cable carriage. As a result, HSN incurred incremental costs to obtain carriage lost in the disengagement markets and conduct marketing activities to inform viewers of new channel positioning for the HSN service. Higher incremental costs were incurred in 2002, so disengagement costs were presented separately from HSN results when comparing 2003 results to 2002. Comparable costs were incurred in 2004 in relation to
2003, and HSN's results are presented including disengagement costs in each period presented. Disengagement expenses were $18.0 million in 2004 compared to $22.0 million in 2003, principally reflecting a decrease in marketing expenses.
Revenue increased 2% in U.S. dollars due primarily to favorable exchange rates and the addition of HSN's new Quiz TV venture in the U.K., which was launched in June 2004. On a local currency basis, revenues decreased 8% due primarily to decreases at HSE-Germany and EUVÍA. EUVÍA year over year comparisons were negatively impacted by a non-recurring override payment recorded in the first quarter of 2003. In 2002 and early 2003, due to EUVÍA's early stage of development, its contracts with its telecom carriers carried lower pricing per call, but allowed for overrides based on achieving volume targets. The current carrier contracts call for higher pricing, with no significant override payments, so the 2004 results do not include such override payments. Excluding the impact of the override payment, EUVÍA results increased primarily due to Neun Live, an interactive game and quiz show oriented television channel, which saw a 10% increase in pricing and a 6% increase in call volume, as the company improved its terms with its current carriers and expanded call volume from Austria, Switzerland and the U.K. during the year. Neun Live continues to experience increased competition in its industry, but new program formats benefited call volumes in the second half of 2004. HSE-Germany results were negatively impacted primarily by the poor results of the Wellness product line compared to 2003.
Operating Income Before Amortization for 2004 primarily reflects the favorable exchange rates, results of EUVÍA and the addition of the U.K. Quiz TV venture as noted above, offset by decreases in 2004 at HSE-Germany. In addition, results were impacted by a settlement received by HSN International on an uncollectible receivable that had been previously written off.
Operating income growth was due to the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above.
Revenue grew 3% reflecting a 4% increase in the average revenue per ticket, partially offset by a 2% decrease in the number of tickets sold. The increase in average revenue per ticket resulted from favorable exchange rates from foreign markets and higher convenience and processing fees. The decrease in the number of tickets sold is due primarily to the weakness in domestic concert ticket sales and the effects of the NHL lockout. International revenue increased 28%, 17% on a local currency basis, due primarily to the recent acquisition in Sweden, increased sales in the United Kingdom and Ireland and the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics license fee.
Operating Income Before Amortization reflects the increase in revenues and increased distribution efficiencies, which were mostly offset by higher depreciation expense, cost of technology and ticket royalties. As the company continues to develop enhanced products to sell more tickets for its clients, technology expenses are expected to increase; ticket royalties are also expected to continue to increase as a percentage of revenue. To date the company has offset these increases with other distribution efficiencies. Operating Income Before Amortization in 2004 and 2003 benefited from the favorable resolution of non-income tax contingencies of $5.0 million and $3.7 million, respectively.
Operating income reflects the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above as well as decreases in the amortization of intangibles and non-cash distribution and marketing expense.
In addition, the Company expects the recent cancellation of the rest of the NHL season to adversely impact results in the near term.
Revenue grew 7%, reflecting a 5% increase in paid subscribers, partially offset by a decrease in the average revenue per subscriber due to lower package prices implemented in 2003 that remained in place for most of 2004. International subscribers grew 37% over the prior year, excluding declines at uDate of 28%.
Operating Income Before Amortization in 2004 was negatively impacted by higher customer acquisition costs, increased spending for international operations and charges relating to management transition and the elimination of certain non-core business lines.
Operating income reflects the decrease in Operating Income Before Amortization described above, offset by a decrease in non-cash distribution and marketing expense and a decrease in the amortization of intangibles which resulted from certain intangibles becoming fully amortized in 2004.
IAC Local and Media Services
Revenues increased $64.5 million, or 28%, primarily due to the acquisitions of TripAdvisor in April 2004, ServiceMagic in September 2004, and Entertainment Publications in March 2003. Citysearch's revenues remained flat due to the shift of its business model from building web sites for local businesses for an annual fee to the introduction of a new Pay-For-Performance business model in June 2003. The Pay-For-Performance business built momentum throughout 2004 resulting in increased revenues for Citysearch in the second half of 2004 driven by both the addition of new Pay-for-Performance merchants and increased traffic.
Operating Income Before Amortization increased resulting primarily from the inclusion of TripAdvisor's results since April 2004 and narrowed losses at Citysearch due principally to headcount reductions, substantially offset by declines at Entertainment Publications due to weakness in the company's core fundraising channels. Entertainment Publications' results are significantly seasonal with the majority of its profitability experienced in the fourth quarter. In addition, Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income were negatively impacted by the sale of EPI's Australian and New Zealand operations in August 2003, which contributed $5.6 million in Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income in 2003.
Operating losses improved by $5.9 million primarily reflecting the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above and was further impacted by the decrease in the amortization of intangible assets.
Revenue for 2004 and 2003 includes $27.2 million and $2.5 million, respectively, for services provided to other IAC businesses, primarily related to TripAdvisor and Entertainment Publications.
Financial Services and Real Estate
Financial Services and Real Estate consists of the results of LendingTree, Inc., which was acquired in August 2003, and the brands and businesses it operates. As a point of comparison, the discussion below compares the results of this segment for 2004 to the full year period in 2003.
Revenue increased 19% in 2004 as compared to 2003 as the company continued to grow its non-refinance mortgages business. As expected, a rising interest rate environment has caused a shift towards lending products other than refinance mortgages, LendingTree's primary product in 2003. The company reported a 108% increase in revenue from purchase mortgages, a 41% increase in revenue from closed real estate transactions, a 17% growth in revenue from home equity loans and a 158% increase in other services revenue. These revenue increases were partially offset by a 39% decrease in revenue from refinance mortgage activity. The increase in other service revenue primarily relates to the acquisition of GetSmart in December 2003, iNest in October 2004 and Home Loan Center (now called LendingTree Loans) in December 2004.
While the number of loan and real estate requests transmitted increased by just 4%, driven by acquisitions and growth in purchase mortgage and real estate categories, the dollar volume of requests transmitted increased 19%, reflecting a shift in the mix towards higher value purchase mortgages and real estate transactions. The number and dollar volume of closed transactions decreased 13% and 14%, respectively in 2004, reflecting the expected impact caused by the drop off in refinance mortgage activity from late 2003 and throughout 2004. This impact was offset in part by the higher mix of purchase mortgage and real estate closings in 2004, which have higher per-transaction values than other products.
Revenue remained comparable to the prior year despite the loss of two key clients that ceased to outsource outbound call volume. The company was able to partially offset these revenue losses by increases in existing client programs and new business. PRC and the industry continue to face significant pricing pressure and increased competition.
Operating Income Before Amortization increased $4.6 million, or 37%, due to lower operating expenses, including lower depreciation expense and fixed costs, as management continued to focus on improving operating efficiencies. These savings were partially offset by lower contribution margins due to pricing pressures.
Operating (loss) income decreased by $180.2 million due primarily to a fourth quarter goodwill impairment charge of $184.8 million before tax, which was recorded as a component of operating income (loss) in the accompanying consolidated statement of operations. The write-down was determined by comparing the fair value of the business and the implied value of the goodwill with the carrying amounts on the balance sheet. The write-down primarily resulted from continued competition and macroeconomic factors which have negatively impacted industry valuations. The goodwill impairment charge recorded in 2004 resulted from the Company's annual impairment review for goodwill and intangible assets, which took place in the fourth quarter in connection with the preparation of our year-end financial statements. The impairment charge was partially offset by the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above. In addition, during 2003 the company recorded a pretax charge of $2.1 million related to real estate and software write-downs which positively impacts year over year comparisons.
Revenue for 2004 and 2003 includes $23.3 million and $17.8 million, respectively, for services provided to other IAC businesses.
In the second quarter of 2003 the Company ceased operations of Avaltus, Inc., a subsidiary of PRC. Accordingly, the results of operations and statement of position of Avaltus are presented as discontinued operations for all periods presented.
Corporate operating expenses in 2004 were $324.4 million compared with $186.0 million in 2003, of which $236.6 million and $110.5 million relate to non-cash compensation in 2004 and 2003, respectively. Included in these amounts for 2004 and 2003 are $167.8 million and $83.7 million, respectively, recognized with respect to the unvested stock options, warrants and restricted stock units assumed in the buy-ins of Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia. This non-cash compensation is recorded over the remaining vesting period of the equity awards and the aggregate amount of this expense will decline as the awards vest. These amounts also include expense related to restricted stock units granted by IAC and which became IAC's primary form of stock based compensation beginning in 2003.
Results of Operations For the Year Ended December 31, 2003 compared to the Year Ended December 31, 2002
Revenue increased $1.7 billion, or 38%, although on a comparable net basis revenue increased $1.5 billion, or 37%. Growth was primarily driven by increased revenue of $764.3 million, or 84%, from IACT on a comparable net basis and $308.2 million, or 16%, from the Electronic Retailing segment, as well as the contributions of $201.5 million and $55.8 million from Entertainment Publications and LendingTree, respectively, which were acquired in March 2003 and August 2003. The revenue growth from IACT included the increase in revenue of $184.0 million from Interval which was acquired in September 2002 and $12.5 million from the acquisition of Hotwire in 2003.
Gross profit increased $1.1 billion, or 58%, primarily reflecting improved operating results of IACT, the Ticketing segment and the Electronic Retailing segment as well as the inclusion of Entertainment Publications in 2003 results.
Selling and marketing expenses increased $369.7 million, or 66%. As a percentage of comparable net revenue, selling and marketing expense increased to 17% for 2003 from 14% in 2002 which reflects in part the impact of acquisitions, as LendingTree and Hotwire generally have higher selling and marketing expenses as a percentage of revenue than IAC overall.
General and administrative expenses increased $216.4 million, or 44%, due primarily to the inclusion of Entertainment Publications and LendingTree in the 2003 results and increased headcount at IACT.
Restructuring costs decreased $54.1 million in 2003. The 2003 restructure charge principally consisted of (1) a write-down of a receivable from the 2002 restructuring of HSN's U.K. offices, (2) facility closure costs at uDate's Derby, U.K. facility as the back-office operations of uDate were combined with Match International, and (3) costs related to employee terminations due principally to the decline in the teleservicing market that resulted in excess capacity. Such restructuring charges were offset by the reversals of costs for terminated employees, which are no longer probable of occurrence. The 2002 amounts are principally comprised of (1) $31.4 million related to the write-down of the Company's investment in HSE-Italy, (2) $14.8 million for HSN International related to the shut-down
of HSN-Espanol, the Company's Spanish language electronic retailing operation, due to high costs of carriage and disappointing sales per home due to the fragmented market, and (3) $7.9 million for PRC related principally to the shut down of three call centers and employee terminations due principally to the decline of the teleservices market that resulted in excess industry capacity and lower pricing.
Operating Income Before Amortization increased $471.0 million, or 121%, primarily reflecting expanding gross margins and improved operating results at IACT, the Electronic Retailing segment and the Ticketing segment, as well as the inclusion of Entertainment Publications in 2003 results. Operating Income Before Amortization was also favorably impacted by a $22.4 million adjustment in 2003 related to estimated supplier liabilities.
Operating income increased $247.6 million, or 162%, reflecting the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization described above as well as a decrease in Teleservices goodwill impairment of $22.2 million. These results were partially offset by increased amortization of intangibles of $122.8 million, or 84%, increased non-cash compensation of $112.5 million, or 720%, and increased amortization of non-cash distribution and marketing expense of $14.1 million or 38%. The increase in non-cash compensation principally resulted from expense related to unvested stock options assumed in IAC's 2003 mergers with Expedia and Hotels.com and the acquisition of LendingTree in August 2003. The increase in the amortization of intangibles was principally due to IAC's 2003 mergers with Expedia and Hotels.com, as well as the acquisition of LendingTree.
Interest income increased $61.2 million in 2003 compared with 2002. The increase in interest income was due primarily to amounts earned on the proceeds from the Vivendi transaction in May 2002, including (1) $37.3 million of paid in kind interest on the Series A Preferred in 2003 compared with $23.0 million in 2002 and (2) $63.9 million of cash interest on the Series B Preferred in 2003 compared with $41.1 million in 2002. In addition, average cash and marketable securities on hand during 2003 and 2002 were $3.6 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively, resulting in higher interest income in 2003.
Interest expense increased $48.4 million in 2003 compared to 2002. The increase in interest expense was due primarily to an increase of $50.3 million related to the Company's $750 million 7% Senior Notes issued in December 2002, partially offset by a $6.2 million decrease in interest on the Company's $500 million 63/4% Senior Notes issued in 1998 due to the repurchases made in late 2002 and 2003, including $92.2 million in aggregate principle amount that were repurchased during 2003.
The Company realized pre-tax losses in 2003 of $224.5 million on equity losses from its investment in VUE, compared with equity income of $6.1 million in 2002. During the first quarter of 2003, the Company recorded a charge of $245 million pretax in connection with VUE's $4.5 billion impairment charge of which IAC recorded its 5.44% proportionate interest.
Equity in the income (losses) of unconsolidated subsidiaries and other income (expense) increased by $119.4 million due primarily to (1) an $88.3 million charge in 2002 related to the closure of HOT Network's Belgium and UK operations, (2) a write-down in 2002 of HSN's investment in China based on operating performance and (3) losses on the repurchase of bonds of $8.6 million and $2.0 million recorded in 2003 and 2002, respectively.
The effective tax rate for continuing operations was 27% in 2003 compared to 58% in 2002. The 2003 tax rate was lower than the federal tax rate of 35% due principally to reversals of valuation allowances of $34.2 million and a decrease in deferred tax liabilities of $13.3 million due to a change in the effective state tax rate. The reversals of valuation allowances were based on an assessment that it was probable that the related tax benefits would be realized. The effective state tax rate decreased as a result of IAC's mergers with its formerly public subsidiaries in 2003 and the Vivendi transaction in 2002. Partially offsetting these decreases in income taxes are earnings in foreign jurisdictions that are taxed at rates higher than 35% and amortization of intangibles for book purposes for which the Company receives no tax deduction. In 2002, the Company recorded, in continuing operations, a tax benefit of $42 million related to a deduction related to its investment in HOT Networks.
Minority interest increased $19.0 million and in 2003 represented the public's minority ownership in Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia until the date of their respective buy-ins in 2003, HSE-Germany and EUVÍA, including redeemable preferred equity interests issued by EUVÍA that are originally due in 2006, but EUVÍA has the right to extend maturity to 2016 based on meeting certain financial covenants. The EUVÍA preferred equity interest is only due to the holder under German law to the extent sufficient funds in excess of fixed capital at EUVÍA are available. In 2002 minority interest primarily represented Universal's and Liberty's ownership interest in USANi LLC through May 7, 2002, Liberty's ownership interest in Home Shopping Network, Inc. through June 27, 2002, the public's minority interests in Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia, HSE-Germany, and EUVÍA since its consolidation in July 2002.
In the second quarter 2003 ECS, Styleclick, Inc. and Avaltus, Inc., a subsidiary of PRC, ceased operations. In addition, through May 7, 2002, the Company's results also included the USA Entertainment Group, consisting of USA Cable, including USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, and Emerging Networks TRIO, Newsworld International and Crime; Studios USA, which produced and distributed television programming; and USA Films, which produced and distributed films. The USA Entertainment Group was contributed to a joint venture with Vivendi on May 7, 2002. As a result, the results of operations and assets and liabilities of USA Entertainment are presented as a discontinued operation through May 7, 2002. The net gain on contribution of the USA Entertainment Group to VUE for the year ended December 31, 2002 was $2.4 billion, which occurred in the second quarter of 2002. Income from discontinued operations in 2003 and 2002 was $40.7 million and $34.2 million, respectively, net of tax. The 2003 results are principally due to a tax benefit recognized due to the shut-down of Styleclick.
The following discussion is based upon comparable net revenue amounts:
Revenue growth in 2003 was primarily driven by strong results from merchant hotel revenue, with additional growth coming from package revenue and membership fee and exchange revenue from Interval.
Merchant hotel room nights stayed increased 64% over 2002, including an increase in international markets, which represented 12% of total merchant hotel revenues in 2003 as compared to 5% in 2002. The increase in merchant hotel revenue was partially offset by the termination of the Travelocity affiliate relationship in September 2003. Travelocity was the largest affiliate of Hotels.com, representing 8% of IACT revenues on a comparable net basis (5% as reported) in 2003 as compared to 18%, on a comparable net basis, and 11% as reported, in 2002. Even though Travelocity represented a significant, albeit declining, percentage of revenue, we expect that the long-term benefits of this event will outweigh the near-term negative impact, including the ability to integrate the operations of Expedia and Hotels.com.
Revenue from travel packages, which allow customers to customize their travel by combining air, hotel, car and other stand-alone travel products, was $333.0 million in 2003, up 109% from 2002, due to improved package offerings and consumer acceptance of this product. Interval, which was acquired in September 2002, had increased 2003 revenue of $184.0 million as compared to the period post-acquisition in 2002. In addition, Hotwire, which was acquired in November 2003, contributed $12.5 million in revenue, although its operating income and Operating Income Before Amortization results were minimal for the period consolidated.
Revenue, Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income were positively impacted in 2003 based on an analysis performed in the fourth quarter related to estimated supplier liabilities, resulting in an adjustment of $22.4 million, $9.8 million of which related to periods prior to 2003. Excluding this amount, IACT's revenue, Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income would have grown 82%, 79% and 82%, respectively in 2003. The analysis performed provided
additional evidence that IACT used to update and refine its estimation of supplier liabilities, resulting in the decrease of $22.4 million. IACT does not expect to record any similar-sized adjustments in future periods.
Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income increased as a result of the growth in revenues, although they increased at higher rates than revenue due to expanding gross margins as well as the scalability of the businesses that allow them to support higher revenue levels without commensurate increases in operating costs. Net revenue as a percentage of total gross transaction value, assuming Hotels.com reported revenues net, was 16.6% in 2003 compared to 14.8% in 2002. IACT incurred selling and marketing expenses of $472.5 million in 2003, up 92% from the prior year, in order to build brands and drive traffic to our sites. The increase in selling and marketing expenses as a percent of revenue was driven by higher costs of traffic acquisitions online, higher CPMs offline, and shift in business mix as our international businesses, which have a higher selling and marketing cost relative to revenue due to their early stages of development, grew faster than our domestic businesses. This increase was more than offset by the operating efficiencies described above. Comparisons of Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income to prior year results were also negatively impacted by the integration efforts undertaken in 2003, resulting in a Hotels.com write-off of duplicative packaging software of $4.7 million, as it adopted Expedia's technology. Interval's 2003 Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income increased $64.6 million and $46.2 million, respectively, as compared to the period post-acquisition in 2002.
Operating income was further impacted by increased amortization of intangibles of $53.5 million due principally to IAC's acquisition of the public's minority interest in Hotels.com and Expedia in 2003, as well as increased non-cash compensation, merger costs and non-cash distribution and marketing expense.
Revenue growth in 2003 reflected a 5% increase in units shipped, a 4% increase in average price point, and a decline in the return rate of 90 basis points. Overall, the product mix shifted slightly from Apparel/ Accessories and Jewelry to Health & Beauty and Home-Hard Goods. The shift in product mix increased the average price point, as Home-Hard Goods, which are comprised of items such as computers and electronics, generally carry higher sales prices and reduced return rates, as compared to Apparel/Accessories and Jewelry. The impact of the decrease in return rates on gross profit was $6.8 million. Off air sales, which include Autoship programs for health products and Upsell programs, had increased revenue of $30.3 million, or 20%, over 2002.
Gross profit remained relatively consistent between years, at 37.1% for 2003 compared with 37.2% in 2002. Changes in product mix that occurred during 2003, shifting into products that carry slightly lower margins, were partially offset by lower markdowns and improvements in fulfillment costs. Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income reflect the growth in revenue, as well as operating efficiencies, as fixed costs as a percentage of revenue declined from 11.6% in 2002 to 11.3% in 2003. In addition, depreciation expense declined $8.7 million compared to 2002.
Operating income grew 19% and reflected the increase in Operating Income Before Amortization noted above as well as increased amortization of intangibles resulting from the full year impact of the step-up in basis as a result of the Vivendi transaction that occurred in May 2002. Amortization of intangibles includes $2.7 million related to non-cash cable carriage acquired as a result of the VUE transaction.
As noted in previous Company filings, the majority of the USA Broadcasting stations sold to Univision were located in the largest markets in the country and aired HSN on a 24-hour basis. As of January 2002, HSN switched its distribution in these markets directly to cable carriage. As a result, HSN incurred incremental costs to obtain carriage lost in the disengagement markets and conduct marketing activities to inform viewers of new channel positioning for the HSN service. HSN's results are presented including disengagement costs in each period presented. Disengagement expenses were $22.0 million in 2003 compared to $31.8 million in 2002, principally reflecting a decrease in marketing expenses.
Revenue growth in 2003 was driven by the full year impact of EUVÍA, which IAC began to consolidate in July 2002, which resulted in increased revenues of $91.9 million, to $118.3 million in 2003, and HSE-Germany, which increased revenues by $75.6 million, or 28%. On a pro forma basis, assuming EUVÍA were consolidated for all of 2002, EUVÍA's revenue increased 39% on a year over year Euro-equivalent basis due primarily to NeunLive, its game and quiz show television format. This increase was due to a 12% increase in rates and a 29% increase in call volume, despite a continued increase in competition which caused call volume to decline slightly over the course of 2003 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2002. EUVÍA's travel business, Sonneklar, continued to develop, and contributed 18% to its overall revenue in 2003 compared to 13% in 2002, on a full year basis. HSE-Germany's growth was primarily due to the favorable impact of foreign exchange rates, which contributed $57.2 million in 2003, or 76% of the growth. HSE-Germany's revenue increased 7% on a year over year Euro-equivalent basis due to improved efficiencies with respect to the ordering process, which has resulted in a decrease in the cancellation rates on orders.
Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income were negatively impacted in 2002 by $31.4 million of restructuring and other charges recognized related to the closure of its operations in Italy, and a $17.8 million charge for the shut-down of HSN-Espanol, which operated a Spanish language electronic retailing operation serving customers primarily in the United States and Mexico.
Revenue growth in 2003 was driven by a 9% increase in average revenue per ticket and a 5% increase in the number of tickets sold. Revenues increased $87.9 million, including $52.2 million domestically and $35.7 million internationally, including $11.7 million related to the full year impact of acquisitions made in 2002 in Denmark and the Netherlands. Revenue per ticket increased due to higher convenience and processing fees in both domestic and foreign markets as well as favorable exchange rates from foreign markets. International revenue increased $19.5 million, or 18%, on a year over year local currency basis. Revenues were favorably impacted by the mix of entertainment events, including an above-average number of stadium shows in 2003.
Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income reflect the positive revenue variance, operating efficiencies and the favorable resolution of tax contingencies of $3.7 million. Fixed costs as a percentage of revenue declined from 28.3% in 2002 to 26.8% in 2003 due to the scalability of the business.
Operating income grew 20% and reflected the increase in Operating Income before Amortization noted above as well as the increase in amortization of intangibles of $17.3 million due to IAC's acquisition of the public's minority interest in Ticketmaster during 2003.
Personals ended 2003 with approximately 939,000 paid subscribers, up 30% from the end of 2002, with uDate, which was acquired in April 2003, contributing 12% of the subscriber growth. Revenue increased in domestic markets due to increases in subscriber count of 13% and higher overall pricing, although pricing declined during 2003 due to the introduction of lower monthly pricing for long-term subscriptions. Revenue from international operations increased $33.1 million, including the contribution of uDate of $18.5 million, with international operations accounting for 20% of total segment revenues in 2003 versus 3% in 2002. Overall, international operations were unprofitable in 2003 with an Operating Income Before Amortization loss of $10.1 million compared to a loss of $4.0 million in 2002, due primarily to increased investments in building out the international operations and the results of uDate.
Operating Income Before Amortization margins decreased in 2003 relative to 2002 primarily due to losses of international operations, including uDate described above.
Operating income in 2003 reflected an increase of $12.9 million of amortization of intangibles related primarily to the Ticketmaster buy-in, which included Match.com, completed by IAC in January 2003 and the acquisition of uDate.
IAC Local and Media Services
IAC Local and Media Services consisted primarily of Citysearch, including Evite, and Entertainment Publications. Net revenues for the year ended December 31, 2003 increased due to the acquisition of Entertainment Publications in March 2003, which contributed $201.5 million of revenue, $46.1 million of Operating Income Before Amortization and $40.4 million of operating income in 2003. Revenue for Citysearch declined as compared to 2002 due to the shift of the business model from building web sites for local businesses for an annual fee, to the introduction of a new Pay-For Performance business model in 2003, which is expected to grow over time. Due to cost cutting initiatives introduced in 2002 and continued in 2003, Citysearch was able to decrease its Operating Income Before Amortization and operating losses as compared to the prior year.
Operating losses in 2003 improved reflecting the increase in Operating Income before Amortization described above. These results were further impacted by decreases in merger costs offset by increases in amortization of intangibles related primarily to the Ticketmaster buy-in, which included Citysearch, completed by IAC in January 2003.
Financial Services and Real Estate consisted of the results of LendingTree from the date of acquisition on August 8, 2003. The fourth quarter of 2003 was the first full quarter that LendingTree, along with the rest of the industry, began to encounter the expected lower demand for refinancings of mortgages. This trend resulted in fewer mortgage requests and closings, and as a result revenue and operating income showed declines in the fourth quarter of 2003 compared with the fourth quarter of 2002 of $3.3 million and $17.7 million respectively. Some of the decline was also due to an increasingly competitive environment, higher marketing spend at the end of 2003 in anticipation of the seasonally stronger first quarter of 2004 and the amortization of intangibles and non-cash compensation in relation to the IAC acquisition of $9.9 million.
For full year 2003 compared to 2002, LendingTree's revenue increased $48.8 million, or 44%, to $160.2 million, reflecting growth from both realty and lending services, particularly refinance mortgages.
Teleservices revenue remained flat in 2003 due in part to tough economic conditions affecting the industry. While revenue remained flat, Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income both increased over 2002. PRC continued to face significant pricing pressure and competition for reduced call volumes but PRC continued to grow organic market share to help offset these pressures.
Operating Income Before Amortization for 2002 included a goodwill impairment charge of $22.2 million recognized in the second quarter and a $7.9 million restructuring charge recognized for the closure of certain call centers. The goodwill impairment charge of $22.2 million noted above related to contingent purchase consideration recorded in the second quarter of 2002 in connection with the purchase of Access Direct.
Excluding these charges in 2002, Operating Income Before Amortization and operating income increased by $8.7 million due to decreases in call center capacity, fixed costs and depreciation expense in 2003. These costs decreased as management continued to focus on improving operating efficiencies
and key strategic initiatives throughout the organization. PRC anticipates it will continue to realize the benefits of turnaround measures in 2004 although PRC expects the first and second quarters of 2004 to be adversely impacted by the anticipated termination of certain client programs. Revenue for the year ended December 31, 2003 and 2002 includes $17.8 million and $9.9 million, respectively, for services provided to other IAC businesses.
In the second quarter of 2003 the Company ceased operations of Avaltus, Inc., a subsidiary of PRC. Accordingly, the results of operations and statement of position of Avaltus are presented as discontinued operations for all periods presented.
Corporate operating expenses in 2003 were $186.0 million compared with $64.9 million in 2002. The increase was related primarily to non-cash compensation of $110.5 million, including the impact of unvested stock options assumed in the buy-ins of Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia and other acquisitions, as well as expense related to restricted stock units, which IAC began to issue in 2003 in lieu of stock options.
As of December 31, 2004, the Company had $1.2 billion of cash and $2.4 billion of marketable securities on hand, including $142.2 million in funds representing amounts equal to the face value of tickets sold by Ticketmaster on behalf of its clients and $488.7 million in combined deferred merchant bookings and deferred revenue at IACT. Ticketmaster net funds collected on behalf of clients increased $15.3 million, $1.7 million and $26.4 million in 2004, 2003 and 2002, respectively, primarily due to timing of settlements with venues.
Net cash provided by operating activities was approximately $1.3 billion in each of 2004 and 2003. Expedia's and Hotels.com's cash flows from their merchant hotel business models contributed significantly to the cash provided by operating activities. The increase in working capital cash flow from IACT was $323.9 million in 2004 as compared to $254.9 million in 2003, reflecting principally changes in deferred merchant bookings and deferred revenue and in accounts payable and accrued expenses. For the years ended December 31, 2004 and 2003, cash flows provided by deferred merchant bookings and deferred revenue at IACT were $81.8 million and $135.8 million, respectively. In the merchant business, Expedia and Hotels.com receive cash from customers on hotel and air bookings before the stay or flight has occurred. These amounts are classified on our balance sheet as deferred merchant bookings. The payment to the suppliers related to these bookings is not made until approximately one week after booking for air travel and, for all other merchant bookings, after the customer's use and subsequent billing from the supplier. Therefore, especially for the hotel business, which is the majority of our merchant bookings, there is generally a significant period of time from the receipt of the cash from the customers to the payment to the suppliers. However, over time we have paid our suppliers faster and we expect this trend to continue. As long as the merchant hotel businesses continue to grow positively, as they have historically, and our business model does not change, we expect that the change in working capital will continue to be positive. If these businesses were to decline or if the model otherwise changed, it would negatively impact working capital. There is a seasonal element to cash flow related to merchant bookings, as the first half of the year has traditionally been a period where hotel bookings significantly exceed stays, resulting in much higher cash flow related to working capital. This trend reverses in the later part of the year. While we expect the seasonality to continue, working capital related to merchant bookings may be impacted by changes in growth rates which might counteract the anticipated seasonality. There is a seasonal element to the inventory balances at the Electronic Retailing segment and Entertainment Publications as inventory tends to be higher in the third quarter in anticipation of the fourth quarter selling season. At December 31, 2004, inventory, net of reserves, increased $25.0 million to $241.0 million from $216.0 million at December 31, 2003. In addition, cash provided by operations was impacted by the payment of approximately $120 million in taxes in 2004, as compared to $19 million in 2003. An additional $86 million of taxes were paid in 2003 related to discontinued operations and as such is not included in cash provided by operations. Cash provided by operations in 2004 was negatively impacted by increases in loans held for sale at HLC which were not included in the prior year period.
Cash provided by operations and available cash in 2004 were used to pay for acquisitions and deal costs, net of acquired cash, of $486.0 million. Cash acquisitions in 2004 primarily relate to TripAdvisor, ServiceMagic and Home Loan Center. In addition, in 2004 the Company increased its long-term investments by $47.5 million, primarily related to eLong, Inc. and incurred capital expenditures of $223.8 million, including approximately $25.5 million related to the acquisition of HSN's new distribution facility located in Tennessee. Net cash provided by operating activities and available cash in 2003 were used to pay for acquisition and deal costs, net of acquired cash, of $1.1 billion for the acquisitions of Entertainment Publications, LendingTree, Hotwire.com and Anyway.com, $497.0 million to purchase marketable securities and $186.9 million to make capital expenditures.
Cash used in financing activities in 2004 of $259.6 million was primarily due to the purchase of treasury stock of $430.3 million, partially offset by the proceeds from the issuance of common stock pursuant to stock option exercises of $147.3 million, increased borrowings under various warehouse lines of credit of $23.4 million and the payment of preferred dividends of $13.1 million. Cash used in financing activities in 2003 of $567.6 million was primarily due to the purchase of treasury stock of $1.5 billion, the purchase from Vivendi of warrants to acquire 28.2 million shares of IAC common stock for an aggregate purchase price of $407.4 million pursuant to the exercise, as Barry Diller's designee, of a right of first refusal and the repurchase of $92.2 million principal amount of IAC's 63/4% Senior Notes due November 15, 2005 for an aggregate purchase price of $100.8 million. These cash outflows were partially offset by proceeds of approximately $1.2 billion related to the sale of 48.7 million shares of common stock to Liberty, pursuant to Liberty's preemptive rights in relation to the Ticketmaster merger, the uDate acquisition, the Expedia and Hotels.com mergers and in connection with IAC option exercises between May 2, 2003 and June 3, 2003, as well as proceeds from the issuance of common stock pursuant to stock option exercises of $264.2 million.
As of December 31, 2004, the Company has $1.4 billion in short and long-term obligations, of which $565.3 million, consisting primarily of 1998 Senior Notes and various warehouse lines of credit, are classified as current. The warehouse lines of credit are used by HLC to fund mortgage and home equity loans. Interest rates under these lines of credit fall within a range of 30-day LIBOR plus 100 basis points to 30-day LIBOR plus 245 basis points, depending on the underlying quality of the loans in the borrowing base. Under the terms of these lines of credit, HLC is required to maintain various financial and other covenants. IAC anticipates that the repayment of the current maturities related to the 63/4% Senior Notes will come from current cash balances while the repayment of the warehouse lines of credit will come from the sale of loans held for sale by HLC. The Company is evaluating alternative funding strategies relative to HLC's business.
In November 2004, IAC announced that its Board of Directors authorized the repurchase of up to 80 million shares of IAC common stock. This authorization is in addition to the 22.9 million shares IAC has remaining under the repurchase authorizations announced in March 2003 and November 2003, which initially covered a total of 80 million shares. IAC may purchase shares over an indefinite period of time, on the open market or through private transactions, depending on those factors IAC deems relevant at any particular time, including, without limitation, market conditions, share price and future outlook. Pursuant to the Board's 2003 authorizations, during 2004 and 2003, IAC purchased 15.8 million and 41.3 million shares for aggregate consideration of $426.9 million and $1.4 billion, respectively, pursuant to these authorizations. At December 31, 2004, IAC had 102.9 million shares remaining in its authorizations.
IAC anticipates that it will need to invest in the development and expansion of its overall operations. The Company may make a number of acquisitions, which could result in the reduction of its cash balance or the incurrence of debt. Furthermore, future capital expenditures may be higher than current amounts over the next several years.
Future demand for our products and services may be impacted by future economic and political developments. As previously discussed, a significant amount of operating cash flow is from increased deferred merchant bookings and the period between receipt of cash from the customer and payment of cash to the vendor. A change in this historical pattern could result in a decrease in operating cash flow, or negative operating cash flows in certain periods. We believe that our financial situation would enable us to absorb a significant potential downturn in business. As a result, in management's opinion, available cash, internally generated funds and available borrowings will provide sufficient capital resources to meet IAC's foreseeable needs.
IAC reports Operating Income Before Amortization as a supplemental measure to GAAP. This measure is one of the primary metrics by which we evaluate the performance of our businesses, on which our internal budgets are based and by which management is compensated. We believe that investors should generally have access to the same set of tools that we use in analyzing our results. This non-GAAP measure should be considered in addition to results prepared in accordance with GAAP, but should not be considered a substitute for or superior to GAAP results. We provide and encourage investors to examine the reconciling adjustments between the GAAP and non-GAAP measure which we discuss below.
Definition of IAC's Non-GAAP Measure
Operating Income Before Amortization is defined as operating income plus: (1) amortization of non-cash distribution, marketing and compensation expense, (2) amortization of intangibles and goodwill impairment, if applicable, (3) pro forma adjustments for significant acquisitions and (4) one-time items. We believe this measure is useful to investors because it represents the consolidated operating results from IAC's segments, taking into account depreciation, which we believe is an ongoing cost of doing business, but excluding the effects of any other non-cash expenses. Operating Income Before Amortization has certain limitations in that it does not take into account the impact to IAC's income statement of certain expenses, including non-cash compensation, non-cash payments to partners, and acquisition- related accounting. IAC endeavors to compensate for the limitations of the non-GAAP measure presented by providing the comparable GAAP measure with equal or greater prominence and descriptions of the reconciling items and adjustments, including quantifying such items, to derive the non-GAAP measure.
Pro Forma Results
We have presented Operating Income Before Amortization pro forma for the impact of IAC's initial acquisition of a majority stake in Expedia which occurred in February 2002, as if the transaction had occurred as of January 1, 2002. We believe that the pro forma results provide investors with better comparisons to prior periods, and a better view of ongoing operations.
Operating Income Before Amortization is presented before one-time items. These items are truly one-time in nature and non-recurring, infrequent or unusual, and have not occurred in the past two years or are not expected to recur in the next two years, in accordance with SEC rules. GAAP results include one-time items. Merger costs incurred by Expedia, Hotels.com and Ticketmaster for investment banking, legal, and accounting fees were related directly to the mergers and were the only costs treated as one-time items for calculating Operating Income Before Amortization. These costs were incurred solely in relation to the mergers, but may not be capitalized since Expedia, Hotels.com and Ticketmaster were considered targets in the transaction for accounting purposes. These costs do not directly benefit operations in any manner, would not normally be recorded by IAC if not for the fact it already consolidated these entities, and are all related to the same transaction, as IAC simultaneously announced its intention to commence its exchange offer for the companies in 2002. The majority of costs are for advisory services provided by investment bankers, and the amounts incurred in 2003 were pursuant to the same fee letters entered into by each company in 2002. Given these factors, we believe it is appropriate to consider these costs as one-time.
Non-Cash Expenses That Are Excluded From Our Non-GAAP Measures
Amortization of non-cash compensation expense consists of restricted stock and options expense, which relates mostly to unvested options assumed by IAC in the Ticketmaster, Hotels.com and Expedia mergers as well as expense associated with grants of restricted stock units for compensation purposes. These expenses are not paid in cash and we include the related shares in our fully diluted shares outstanding.
Amortization of non-cash distribution and marketing expense consists mainly of Hotels.com performance warrants issued to obtain distribution and non-cash advertising secured from Universal Television as part of the Vivendi transaction. The Hotels.com warrants were principally issued as part of its initial public offering, and we do not anticipate replicating these arrangements. With the termination of the Travelocity affiliate agreement in September 2003, all outstanding Travelocity warrants were cancelled although certain other Hotels.com warrants remain outstanding. The non-cash advertising from Universal has primarily been used for the benefit of Expedia, which runs television advertising primarily on the USA and Sci Fi cable channels without any cash cost. Ticketmaster and Match.com also recognized non-cash distribution and marketing expense related to barter arrangements, which expired in March 2004, for distribution secured from third parties, whereby advertising was provided by Ticketmaster and Match.com to a third party in return for distribution over the third party's network. The advertising provided was secured by IAC pursuant to an agreement with Universal as part of the Vivendi transaction. Sufficient advertising has been secured to satisfy existing obligations. We do not expect to replace this non-cash marketing with an equivalent cash expense after it runs out in 2007, nor would IAC incur such amounts absent the advertising received in the Vivendi transaction.
Amortization of intangibles is a non-cash expense relating primarily to acquisitions. At the time of an acquisition, the intangible assets of the acquired company, such as supplier contracts and customer relationships, are valued and amortized over their estimated lives. While it is likely that we will have significant intangible amortization expense as we continue to acquire companies, we believe that since intangibles represent costs incurred by the acquired company to build value prior to acquisition, they were part of transaction costs and will not be replaced with cash costs when the intangibles are fully amortized.
Reconciliation of Operating Income Before Amortization
The following table is a reconciliation of Operating Income Before Amortization to operating income and net earnings available to common shareholders for the years ended December 31, 2004, 2003, and 2002.
The following table reconciles Operating Income Before Amortization to operating income (loss) for the Company's reporting segments and to net earnings available to common shareholders in total (in millions, rounding differences may occur):
Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
The following disclosure is provided to supplement the descriptions of IAC's accounting policies contained in Note 2 to the Consolidated Financial Statements in regard to significant areas of judgment. Management of the Company is required to make certain estimates and assumptions during the preparation of consolidated financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. These estimates and assumptions impact the reported amount of assets and liabilities and disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities as of the date of the consolidated financial statements. They also impact the reported amount of net earnings during any period. Actual results could differ from those estimates. Because of the size of the financial statement elements to which they relate, some of our accounting policies and estimates have a more significant impact on our financial statements than others. What follows is a discussion of some of our more significant accounting policies and estimates.
the probability of realization. As of December 31, 2004, the balance of long term deferred tax liabilities, net, is $2.3 billion, including $1.0 billion related to the VUE limited partnership. Actual income taxes could vary from these estimates due to future changes in income tax law, state income tax apportionment or based upon review of our tax returns by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as operating results of the Company that vary significantly from budgets.
the indicators outlined in EITF 99-19. See Note 2 "Summary of Significant Accounting Policies," Revenue Recognition, in the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements for discussion of the factors considered by Hotels.com and Expedia in arriving at their conclusions. Beginning January 1, 2004, as part of the integration of IACT's businesses, Hotels.com conformed its merchant hotel business practices with those of the other IACT businesses. As a result, IAC commenced prospectively reporting revenue for Hotels.com on a net basis, consistent with Expedia's historical practice.
IAC's businesses are subject to the effects of seasonality with revenues typically lowest in the first quarter of the year and highest in the fourth quarter, primarily as a result of seasonality at our travel business as well as Entertainment Publications and, to a lesser extent, HSN.
Our travel business experiences seasonal fluctuations, reflecting seasonal trends for the products and services made available. For example, traditional leisure travel supplier and agency bookings typically are highest in the first two calendar quarters of the year as consumers plan and book their spring and summer travel and then the number of bookings flattens in the last two calendar quarters of the year. Because revenue in our merchant business is generally recognized when the travel takes place rather than when it is booked, our revenue growth typically lags our bookings growth by a month or two. As a result, revenue for the last two years has been lowest in the first quarter of the year and highest in the third quarter.
Our results may also be affected by seasonal fluctuations in the products and services made available by travel suppliers to consumers booking through us. For instance, during seasonal periods when demand is high, suppliers may impose blackouts that prohibit us from making those products and services available during such periods.
Interval's revenues from existing members are influenced by the seasonal nature of planned family travel with the first quarter generally experiencing the strongest bookings and the fourth quarter generally experiencing weaker bookings.
Seasonality also impacts IAC's Electronic Retailing segment, with sales highest in the fourth quarter, but not to the same extent it impacts the retail industry in general.
Ticketing operations revenues are impacted by fluctuations in the availability of events for sale to the public, which vary depending upon scheduling by the client. Due to the generally highest level of ticket on-sales for events, the second quarter of the year generally experiences the highest revenue levels.
Financial Services and Real Estate revenues are subject to the seasonal trends of the U.S. housing market. Home sales typically rise during the spring and summer months and decline during the fall and winter. Refinancing activity is less impacted by seasonality and is principally driven by current mortgage interest rates.
Entertainment Publication's revenues are significantly seasonal with the majority of the company's revenues and profitability experienced in the fourth quarter.
New Accounting Pronouncements
In March 2004, the FASB's Emerging Issues Task Force ("EITF") reached a consensus on EITF Issue No. 03-1, "The Meaning of Other-Than-Temporary Impairment and Its Application to Certain Investments." The guidance prescribes a three-step model for determining whether an investment is other-than-temporarily impaired and requires disclosures about unrealized losses on investments. In September 2004, the FASB delayed the accounting provisions of EITF 03-1; however, the disclosure requirements remain effective for annual periods ending after December 15, 2003. The adoption of the disclosure provision of EITF 03-1 did not have any material effect on our financial position, results of operations, or cash flows. We will evaluate the additional effect, if any, the remainder of EITF 03-1 will have on our consolidated financial statements once final guidance is issued.
In April 2004, the EITF issued Statement No. 03-06 "Participating Securities and the Two-Class Method Under FASB Statement No. 128, Earnings Per Share" ("EITF 03-06"). EITF 03-06 addresses a number of questions regarding the computation of earnings per share by companies that have issued securities other than common stock that contractually entitle the holder to participate in dividends and earnings of the company when, and if, it declares dividends on its common stock. The issue also provides further guidance in applying the two-class method of calculating earnings per share, clarifying what constitutes a participating security and how to apply the two-class method of computing earnings per share once it is determined that a security is participating, including how to allocate undistributed earnings to such a security. EITF 03-06 became effective during the quarter ended June 30, 2004, the adoption of which did not have an impact on our calculation of earnings per share.
On December 16, 2004, the FASB issued FASB Statement No. 123(R), Share-Based Payment, which is a revision of FASB Statement No. 123, "Accounting for Stock-Based Compensation". Statement 123(R) supersedes APB Opinion No. 25, "Accounting for Stock Issued to Employees", and amends FASB Statement No. 95, "Statement of Cash Flows". Generally, the approach in Statement 123(R) is similar to the approach described in Statement 123. However, Statement 123(R) requires all share-based payments to employees, including grants of employee stock options, to be recognized in the income statement based on their fair values. Pro forma disclosure is no longer an alternative. Public
entities are required to apply Statement 123(R) as of the first interim or annual reporting period that begins after June 15, 2005.
The Company adopted the fair-value-based method of accounting for share-based payments effective January 1, 2003 using the prospective method described in FASB Statement No. 148, "Accounting for Stock-Based CompensationTransition and Disclosure". Currently, the Company uses the Black-Scholes-Merton formula to estimate the value of stock options granted to employees and expects to continue to use this acceptable option valuation model upon the required adoption of Statement 123(R) on July 1, 2005. Because Statement 123(R) must be applied not only to new awards but to previously granted awards that are not fully vested on the effective date, and because the Company adopted Statement 123 using the prospective transition method (which applied only to awards granted, modified or settled after the adoption date), compensation cost for some previously granted awards that were not recognized under Statement 123 will be recognized under Statement 123(R). Statement 123(R) also requires the benefits of tax deductions in excess of recognized compensation cost to be reported as a financing cash flow, rather than as an operating cash flow as required under current literature. This requirement will reduce net operating cash flows and increase net financing cash flows in periods after adoption. We do not believe the adoption of Statement 123(R) will have a material effect on the Company's consolidated statement of operations. The Company is currently assessing the impact of this pronouncement on its consolidated statement of cash flows.
In December 2004, the FASB issued SFAS No. 153, "Exchanges of Nonmonetary AssetsAn Amendment of APB Opinion No. 29, Accounting for Nonmonetary Transactions" ("SFAS 153"). SFAS 153 eliminates the exception from fair value measurement for nonmonetary exchanges of similar productive assets in paragraph 21(b) of APB Opinion No. 29, "Accounting for Nonmonetary Transactions," and replaces it with an exception for exchanges that do not have commercial substance. SFAS 153 specifies that a nonmonetary exchange has commercial substance if the future cash flows of the entity are expected to change significantly as a result of the exchange. SFAS 153 is effective for the fiscal periods beginning after June 15, 2005. The adoption of SFAS 153 is not expected to have a material impact on the Company's current financial condition or results of operations.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The use of words such as "anticipates," "estimates," "expects," "projects," "intends," "plans," and "believes," among others, generally identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements include, among others, statements relating to: IAC's future financial performance, IAC's business prospects and strategy, including the Spin-Off, anticipated trends and prospects in the various industries in which IAC and its businesses operate, new products, services and related strategies and other similar matters. These forward-looking statements reflect the views of IAC management regarding current expectations and projections about future events and are based on currently available information. These forward-looking statements are inherently subject to uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict.
Actual results could differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements included in this report for a variety of reasons, including, among others: adverse changes in economic conditions generally or in any of the markets or industries in which IAC's businesses operate, changes in senior management at IAC and/or its businesses, the rate of growth of the Internet, the e-commerce industry and broadband access, the rate of online migration in the various markets and industries in which IAC's businesses operate, the ability of IAC to expand successfully in international markets, the successful integration of acquired businesses, and the integrity, security and redundancy of the systems and networks of IAC and its businesses. Certain of these and other risks and uncertainties are discussed in more detail in other parts of this report, especially under the captions "Business" and "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations." Other
unknown or unpredictable factors also could have a material adverse effect on IAC's business, financial condition and results of operations.
In light of these risks and uncertainties, the forward-looking statements discussed in this report may not occur. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which only reflect the views of IAC management as of the date of this report. IAC is not under any obligation and does not intend to publicly update or review any of these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, even if experience or future events make it clear that any expected results expressed or implied by those forward-looking statements will not be realized.
Item 7A: Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Interest Rate Risk
The Company's exposure to market rate risk for changes in interest rates relates primarily to the Company's short-term investment portfolio and long-term debt. The Company invests its excess cash in debt instruments of government agencies and high quality corporate issuers. The portfolio is reviewed on a periodic basis and adjusted in the event that the credit rating of a security held in the portfolio deteriorates.
Based on the Company's total outstanding debt securities as of December 31, 2004, a 100 basis point increase or decrease in the level of interest rates would, respectively, decrease or increase the fair value of the debt securities by approximately $29.0 million. Such potential increase or decreases are based on certain simplifying assumptions, including a constant level and rate of debt securities and an immediate across-the-board increase or decrease in the level of interest rates with no other subsequent changes for the remainder of the period. Conversely, since almost all of the Company's cash balance of approximately $1.2 billion is invested in variable rate interest earning assets, the Company would also earn more (less) interest income due to such an increase (decrease) in interest rates.
At December 31, 2004, the Company's outstanding debt approximated $1.4 billion, substantially all of which is fixed rate obligations. If market rates decline, the Company runs the risk that the related required payments on its fixed rate debt will exceed those based on market rates. As part of its risk management strategy, the Company uses derivative instruments, including interest rate swaps, to hedge some of this interest rate exposure. The Company's intent is to offset gains and losses resulting from this exposure with losses and gains on the derivative contracts used to hedge it, thereby reducing volatility of earnings and protecting fair values of assets and liabilities. The Company's objective in managing its exposure to interest rate risk on its long-term debt is to maintain its mix of floating rate and fixed rate debt within a certain range. During 2004 and 2003, the Company entered into interest rate swap agreements related to a portion of the 2002 Senior Notes, which allow IAC to receive fixed rate amounts in exchange for making floating rate payments based on the LIBOR. As of December 31, 2004, of the $750 million notional amount outstanding under the 2002 Senior Notes, the interest rate is fixed on $350 million at 7% and floating on $400 million, with the rate based on a spread over 6-month LIBOR. In addition, during 2004 the Company sold swap agreements of a notional amount of $250 million and $100 million for nominal gains, which are being amortized over the remaining life of the 2002 Senior Notes. The changes in fair value of the interest rate swaps at December 31, 2004 resulted in an unrealized gain of $0.4 million.
The majority of the Company's outstanding fixed-rate debt relates to the $750.0 million notional amount outstanding under the 2002 Senior Notes as well as the $360.8 million notional amount outstanding under the 1998 Senior Notes. Excluding the $400 million under the 2002 Senior Notes which currently pays a variable interest rate as a result of the outstanding swap agreements noted above, a 100 basis point increase or decrease in the level of interest rates would, respectively, decrease or increase the fair value of the fixed-rate debt by approximately $23.3 million. Such potential increases or decreases are based on certain simplifying assumptions, including a constant level and rate of
fixed-rate debt for all maturities and an immediate across-the-board increase or decrease in the level of interest rates with no other subsequent changes for the remainder of the period. If the LIBOR rates were to increase (decrease) by 100 basis points, then the annual interest payments on the $400 million of variable-rate debt would have increased (decreased) by $4.7 million. Such potential increases or decreases are based on certain simplifying assumptions, including a constant level and rate of variable-rate debt for all maturities and an immediate across-the-board increase or decrease in the level of interest rates with no other subsequent changes for the remainder of the period.
One of the Company's subsidiaries, Home Loan Center, is exposed to interest rate risk for loans it originates and subsequently sells in the secondary market ("loans held for sale") and as a party to interest rate lock commitments ("IRLCs") to fund mortgage loans at interest rates previously agreed upon by the subsidiary and the borrower for specified periods of time.
The Company hedges the changes in fair value of the loans held for sale primarily by using mortgage forward delivery contracts. These hedging relationships are documented as fair value hedges. For loans held for sale that are hedged with forward sale commitments, the carrying value is adjusted for the change in market value during the time the hedge was deemed to be highly effective. The Company records changes in fair value of hedged loans for sale as an adjustment to the carrying basis of the loan through current period earnings. If it is determined that the hedging relationship is not highly effective as a hedge, hedge accounting is discontinued. When hedge accounting is discontinued, the changes in fair value of derivative instruments no longer offset with changes in value of the previously hedged loans held for sale and the difference is reflected in current earnings as a component of revenue. At December 31, 2004, the amount of hedge ineffectiveness on loans held for sale resulted in the Company recognizing $0.5 million in gains.
IRLCs are derivative instruments and, therefore, are required to be recorded at fair value, with changes in fair value reflected in current period earnings. To manage the interest rate risk associated with the IRLCs the Company uses derivative instruments, including mortgage forward delivery contracts. These instruments do not qualify for hedge accounting. The changes in fair value of these instruments at December 31, 2004 resulted in a loss of $0.1 million and are included as a component of revenue in the accompanying statement of operations. The Company formally designates and documents all hedging relationships as either fair value hedges or cash flow hedges, as applicable, and documents the objective and strategy for undertaking the hedge transaction.
Foreign Currency Exchange Risk
The Company conducts business in certain foreign markets, primarily in Canada and the European Union. The Company's primary exposure to foreign currency risk relates to investments in foreign subsidiaries that transact business in a functional currency other than the U.S. Dollar, primarily the Euro, British Pound Sterling and Canadian Dollar. However, the exposure is mitigated since the Company has generally reinvested profits from international operations in order to grow the businesses.
As the Company increases its operations in international markets it becomes increasingly exposed to potentially volatile movements in currency exchange rates. The economic impact of currency exchange rate movements on the Company are often linked to variability in real growth, inflation, interest rates, governmental actions and other factors. These changes, if material, could cause the Company to adjust its financing and operating strategies.
As currency exchange rates change, translation of the income statements of the Company's international businesses into U.S. dollars affects year-over-year comparability of operating results. Historically, the Company has not hedged translation risks because cash flows from international operations were generally reinvested locally.
Foreign exchange gains and losses were not material to the Company's earnings in 2004 and 2003. However, the Company periodically reviews its strategy for hedging transaction risks. The Company's
objective in managing its foreign exchange risk is to minimize its potential exposure to the changes that exchange rates might have on its earnings, cash flows and financial position.
During the second quarter of 2003, one of the Company's foreign subsidiaries entered into a foreign exchange forward contract with a notional amount of $38.6 million, which was used to hedge against the change in value of a liability denominated in a currency other than the subsidiary's functional currency. Foreign exchange re-measurement gains and losses related to the contract and liability are recognized each period in our statement of operations and are offsetting. The change in fair value of this foreign exchange forward contract at December 31, 2004 resulted in an unrealized loss of $10.8 million.
During the fourth quarter of 2003, one of the Company's subsidiaries entered into a cross currency swap with a notional amount of Euro 39 million which is to mature on October 30, 2013 and is used to hedge against the change in value of an asset denominated in a currency other than the subsidiary's functional currency. This swap enables the Company to pay Euro at a rate of the three-month EURIBOR plus 0.50% on Euro 39 million. In exchange the Company receives 4.9% interest on $46.4 million. In addition, on April 14, 2004, one of the Company's subsidiaries entered into a cross currency swap with a notional amount of Euro 38.2 million which is to mature on April 7, 2014 and is used to hedge against the change in value of an asset in a similar manner to the swap described above. This swap enables the Company to pay Euro at a rate of the six-month EURIBOR plus 0.90% on Euro 38.2 million. In exchange the Company receives 5.47% interest on $45.9 million. At the date of maturity, these agreements call for the exchange of notional amounts. The change in fair value of these cross currency swaps at December 31, 2004 resulted in an unrealized loss of $12.8 million.
Equity Price Risk
The Company has a minimal investment in equity securities of publicly traded companies. These investments, as of December 31, 2004, were considered available-for-sale and included in long-term assets with the unrealized gain deferred as a component of shareholders' equity. It is not customary for the Company to make significant investments in equity securities as part of its marketable securities investment strategy.
On August 4, 2004, IAC made an investment in eLong, Inc. ("eLong"), a Cayman Island company, whose principal business is the operation of an Internet based travel business in the People's Republic of China. The purchase price of the investment was approximately $59 million in cash that represented a 30% interest in eLong which is accounted for under the equity method at December 31, 2004. Concurrent with the original investment, eLong issued a warrant to IAC to acquire such additional eLong shares as would be necessary to provide IAC with a minimum aggregate investment of 51% of eLong shares on a fully diluted basis for approximately $6.21 per share.
On October 28, 2004 eLong priced it initial public offering of shares. The initial public offering resulted in the warrant becoming subject to the mark-to-market provisions of SFAS 115, "Accounting for Certain Investments in Debt and Equity Securities." As such, the Company has recorded an unrealized gain of $27.2 million, net of deferred taxes, related to the warrant that has been recorded in other comprehensive income at December 31, 2004.
On December 16, 2004, IAC notified eLong of its intent to exercise its warrant to acquire its additional eLong shares. The transaction was completed on January 10, 2005. Following the exercise of the warrant, IAC owns approximately 52% of the outstanding capital stock of eLong on a fully diluted basis, representing approximately 96% of the total voting power of eLong. Accordingly, the Company will begin to consolidate the results of eLong effective January 10, 2005.
The Company has substantial investments in VUE as of December 31, 2004, including Preferred A interests and Preferred B interests with carrying values of approximately $614 million and $1.4 billion, respectively, and common interests with a carrying value of $782 million. The Company has reviewed the carrying value of these investments as of December 31, 2004 and believes they are not in excess of their fair value.
Item 8. Consolidated Financial Statements and Supplementary Data
Board of Directors and Shareholders of
We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of IAC/InterActiveCorp (formerly InterActiveCorp and USA Interactive) and subsidiaries as of December 31, 2004 and 2003, and the related consolidated statements of operations, shareholders' equity, and cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2004. Our audits also included the financial statement schedule listed in the Index at Item 15(a). These financial statements and financial statement schedule are the responsibility of the Company's management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these financial statements and the financial statement schedule based on our audits.
We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.
In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of IAC/InterActiveCorp and subsidiaries at December 31, 2004 and 2003, and the consolidated results of its operations and its cash flows for each of the three years in the period ended December 31, 2004, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Also, in our opinion, the related financial statement schedule, when considered in relation to the basic consolidated financial statements taken as a whole, presents fairly in all material respects the information set forth therein.
As discussed in Note 4 to the consolidated financial statements, on January 1, 2002, IAC/InterActiveCorp adopted Statement of Financial Accounting Standards ("SFAS") No. 142, "Accounting for Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets."
We also have audited, in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States), the effectiveness of IAC/InterActiveCorp's internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2004, based on criteria established in Internal ControlIntegrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission and our report dated March 11, 2005 expressed an unqualified opinion thereon.
The accompanying Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements are an integral part of these statements.