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Sea Cuts Operations in South America, Gaming Staff in China

Sea’s e-commerce platform Shopee plans to shut operations in Argentina, while scaling back in Mexico, Chile, and Colombia. Staff are also being laid off at its Garena gaming unit in Shanghai

SEA is winding down operations in South America, while trimming gaming staff in Shanghai.
Singapore-based e-commerce firm Sea Ltd says it will focus on core Asian states, after winding down operations in Latin America. File photo: Reuters.


Singapore-based Sea Ltd‘s e-commerce platform Shopee plans to wind down operations in four countries in Latin America – Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, sources have revealed.

Hundreds of staff are also being laid off at the group’s Garena gaming unit in Shanghai, the sources said.

Shopee chief executive Chris Feng said in an internal email that “in light of the current elevated macro uncertainty,” Sea needed to “focus resources on core operations”.

Sea, which is listed in New York, has been cutting jobs across its units in recent months after reporting a nearly $1 billion quarterly loss in the April-June quarter.

Garena’s biggest source of revenue is the Free Fire mobile game.

Sea will quit Argentina entirely, according to the email and three sources with direct knowledge of the matter. It will maintain cross-border operations in Chile, Colombia and Mexico but lay off dozens of local employees, the people said.

Shopee confirmed that it would operate a “cross-border model in Chile, Colombia and Mexico, and close in Argentina.”

Three separate sources said the company was laying off people in Shanghai, which is a major development centre for Garena.

Two of the sources said as many as 15% of employees at the Shanghai office were let go this week, with the third source confirming the number was in the “low several hundreds.”


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Market Value Plunges After Pandemic

Sea saw its market value soar to more than $200 billion last October as its gaming and e-commerce units surged in popularity during the pandemic, but its shares have tumbled since then and are now worth just $27 billion.

“In line with our previously stated focus on enhancing the long-term strength of our ecosystem, Garena has made some adjustments to certain teams,” which impacts a “number of roles,” a Sea spokesperson said.

Along with the gaming job cuts, multiple new games were cancelled, the two latter sources said. Some smaller rounds of layoffs have already been conducted on various teams in the past weeks, they said.

Free Fire, a survival shooting game, has long been Sea’s most lucrative game, raking in more than $4 billion by 2021 since its release in 2017, according to research firm Sensor Tower.

The games profits have helped support unprofitable but fast growing businesses such as Shopee, a practice that some analysts have called unsustainable.

Sea withdrew its e-commerce forecast for the year.

Gaming revenue has also declined as Free Fire has struggled after the game was banned by the Indian government in February.

In March, Shopee announced that it was shutting its nascent operations in India and France.

Garena is also cutting staff at its gaming livestream platform Booyah, while Shopee has rescinded dozens of job offers in the past weeks.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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