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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

WASHINGTON, D. C. 20549

FORM 10-K

☒    ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018 

OR

☐    TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                             to

Commission File Number 001-33982

QURATE RETAIL, INC.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)

State of Delaware

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

84-1288730

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

 

 

12300 Liberty Boulevard

Englewood, Colorado

(Address of principal executive offices)

80112

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant's telephone number, including area code: (720) 875-5300

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

    

Name of exchange on which registered

Series A Common Stock, par value $.01 per share

 

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

Series B Common Stock, par value $.01 per share

 

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:  None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.  Yes ☒   No ☐

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes  ☐  No ☒

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 ☒   No ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒    No ☐

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of 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.  ☒

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of "large accelerated filer," "accelerated filer," "smaller reporting company," and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer ☒

Accelerated filer ☐

Non-accelerated filer ☐

 

Smaller reporting company ☐

Emerging growth company☐

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.  ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐    No ☒

The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by nonaffiliates of Qurate Retail, Inc. computed by reference to the last sales price of Qurate Retail, Inc. common stock, as of the closing of trading on June 29, 2018, was approximately $9.0 billion.

The number of outstanding shares of Qurate Retail, Inc.'s common stock as of January 31, 2019 was:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series A common stock

 

405,559,788

 

 

Series B common stock

 

29,248,343

 

 

Documents Incorporated by Reference

The Registrant's definitive proxy statement for its 2019 Annual Meeting of Stockholders is hereby incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 


 

Table of Contents

QURATE RETAIL, INC.

2018 ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10K

Table of Contents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

Part I

    

Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 1. 

 

Business

 

I-3

 

Item 1A. 

 

Risk Factors

 

I-20

 

Item 1B. 

 

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

I-36

 

Item 2. 

 

Properties

 

I-36

 

Item 3. 

 

Legal Proceedings

 

I-37

 

Item 4. 

 

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

I-37

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part II

 

 

 

Item 5. 

 

Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

II-1

 

Item 6. 

 

Selected Financial Data

 

II-3

 

Item 7. 

 

Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

II-5

 

Item 7A. 

 

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

II-24

 

Item 8. 

 

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

II-25

 

Item 9. 

 

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

II-25

 

Item 9A. 

 

Controls and Procedures

 

II-25

 

Item 9B. 

 

Other Information

 

II-26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part III

 

 

 

Item 10. 

 

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

III1

 

Item 11. 

 

Executive Compensation

 

III1

 

Item 12. 

 

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

III1

 

Item 13. 

 

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

III1

 

Item 14. 

 

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

 

III1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part IV

 

 

 

Item 15. 

 

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

 

IV1

 

Item 16. 

 

Form 10-K Summary

 

IV8

 

 

 

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PART I.

Item 1.  Business.

General Development of Business

Qurate Retail, Inc., formerly known as Liberty Interactive Corporation prior to the Transactions (defined and described below) and prior thereto known as Liberty Media Corporation, ("Qurate Retail", the “Company”, “we”, “us” and “our”) owns interests in subsidiaries and other companies which are primarily engaged in the video and online commerce industries.  Through our subsidiaries and affiliates, we operate in North America, Europe and Asia.  Our principal businesses and assets include our consolidated subsidiaries QVC, Inc. ("QVC"), which includes HSN, Inc. (“HSN”) following the transfer of ownership of HSN to QVC (described below), Cornerstone Brands, Inc. (former subsidiary of HSN prior to the transfer of ownership of HSN to QVC), zulily, llc (“zulily”) and other cost and equity method investments. 

On September 23, 2011, Qurate Retail completed the split-off of a wholly owned subsidiary, Liberty Media Corporation ("LMC") (formerly known as Liberty CapStarz, Inc. and prior thereto known as Liberty Splitco, Inc.) (the "LMC Split-Off"). At the time of the LMC Split-Off, LMC owned all the assets, businesses and liabilities previously attributed to the Capital and Starz tracking stock groups. The LMC Split-Off was effected by means of a redemption of all of the Liberty Capital common stock and Liberty Starz common stock of Qurate Retail in exchange for the common stock of LMC. Following the LMC Split-Off, Qurate Retail and LMC operate as separately publicly traded companies and neither has any stock ownership, beneficial or otherwise, in the other.

On August 9, 2012, Qurate Retail completed the approved recapitalization of its common stock through the creation of the Liberty Interactive common stock and Liberty Ventures common stock as tracking stocks. In the recapitalization, each holder of Liberty Interactive Corporation common stock remained a holder of the same amount and series of Liberty Interactive common stock and received 0.05 of a share of the corresponding series of Liberty Ventures common stock, by means of a dividend, with cash issued in lieu of fractional shares of Liberty Ventures common stock.

On October 3, 2014, Qurate Retail reattributed from the Interactive Group to the Ventures Group approximately $1 billion in cash and its Digital Commerce businesses (as defined below), including Backcountry.com, Inc., Bodybuilding.com, LLC (“Bodybuilding”), CommerceHub, Inc. (then, Commerce Technologies, Inc.) (“CommerceHub”), Provide Commerce, Inc. (“Provide”), and Evite, Inc. (“Evite”) (collectively, the “Digital Commerce businesses”). Subsequent to the reattribution, the Interactive Group was referred to as the QVC Group. The QVC Group had attributed to it Qurate Retail’s wholly-owned subsidiaries QVC, zulily (as of October 1, 2015) and HSN and Cornerstone (as of December 29, 2017), along with cash and certain liabilities. In connection with the reattribution, the Liberty Interactive tracking stock trading symbol “LINTA” was changed to "QVCA" and the "LINTB" trading symbol to "QVCB," effective October 7, 2014. Other than the issuance of Liberty Ventures shares in the fourth quarter of 2014, the reattribution of tracking stock groups had no consolidated impact on Qurate Retail. Effective June 4, 2015, the name of the “Liberty Interactive common stock” was changed to the “QVC Group common stock.”

Tracking stock is a type of common stock that the issuing company intends to reflect or "track" the economic performance of a particular business or "group," rather than the economic performance of the company as a whole. Prior to the Transactions Qurate Retail had two tracking stocks, QVC Group common stock and Liberty Ventures common stock, which were intended to track and reflect the economic performance of Qurate Retail’s QVC Group and Ventures Group, respectively. While the QVC Group and the Ventures Group had separate collections of businesses, assets and liabilities attributed to them, no group was a separate legal entity and therefore no group could own assets, issue securities or enter into legally binding agreements. Holders of tracking stock had no direct claim to the group's stock or assets and were not represented by separate boards of directors. Instead, holders of tracking stock were stockholders of the parent corporation, with a single board of directors and subject to all of the risks and liabilities of the parent corporation.

On August 27, 2014, Qurate Retail completed the spin-off to holders of its Liberty Ventures common stock shares of its former wholly-owned subsidiary, Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings, Inc. (“TripAdvisor Holdings”) (the “TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off”), which was effected as a pro-rata dividend of shares of TripAdvisor Holdings to the stockholders of Liberty’s Series A and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock. At the time of the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off,

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TripAdvisor Holdings was comprised of Qurate Retail’s former 22% economic and 57% voting interest in TripAdvisor, Inc. (“TripAdvisor”), as well as BuySeasons, Inc., Qurate Retail’s former wholly-owned subsidiary, and a corporate level net debt balance of $350 million. Concurrently with TripAdvisor Holdings’ execution of certain margin loans in connection with the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off, Qurate Retail and TripAdvisor Holdings entered into a promissory note that expired in 2017 pursuant to which TripAdvisor Holdings could have requested, if the closing price per share of TripAdvisor common stock were to fall below certain minimum values, up to $200 million in funds from Qurate Retail. The TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off was recorded at historical cost due to the pro rata nature of the distribution. Following the completion of the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off, Qurate Retail and TripAdvisor Holdings operate as separate, publicly traded companies, and neither has any stock ownership, beneficial or otherwise, in the other. The consolidated financial statements of Qurate Retail have been prepared to reflect TripAdvisor Holdings as discontinued operations.

On October 1, 2015, Qurate Retail acquired zulily, inc. (now known as zulily, llc) for consideration of approximately $2.3 billion, comprised of $9.375 of cash and 0.3098 newly issued shares of Series A QVC Group common stock for each zulily share, with cash paid in lieu of any fractional shares. zulily is an online retailer offering customers a fun and entertaining shopping experience with a fresh selection of new product styles launched every day. 

On May 18, 2016, Qurate Retail completed a $2.4 billion investment in Liberty Broadband in connection with the merger of Charter Communications, Inc. ("Legacy Charter") and Time Warner Cable Inc. ("TWC"). The proceeds of this investment were used by Liberty Broadband to fund, in part, its acquisition of $5 billion of stock in the new public parent company (“Charter”) of the combined enterprises. Qurate Retail, along with third party investors, all of whom invested on the same terms as Qurate Retail, purchased newly issued shares of Liberty Broadband Series C common stock at a per share price of $56.23, which was determined based upon the fair value of Liberty Broadband's net assets on a sum-of-the-parts basis at the time the investment agreements were executed. Qurate Retail's investment in Liberty Broadband was funded using cash on hand and was attributed to the Ventures Group prior to the Transactions.  

Qurate Retail also exchanged, in a tax-free transaction, its shares of TWC common stock for shares of Charter Class A common stock, on a one-for-one basis, and Qurate Retail granted to Liberty Broadband a proxy and a right of first refusal with respect to the shares of Charter Class A common stock held by Qurate Retail following the exchange, which proxy and right of first refusal was assigned to GCI Liberty in connection with the Transactions.  

On July 22, 2016, Qurate Retail completed the spin-off (the “CommerceHub Spin-Off”) of its former wholly-owned subsidiary CommerceHub to holders of its Liberty Ventures common stock. The CommerceHub Spin-Off was accomplished by the distribution by Qurate Retail of a dividend of (i) 0.1 of a share of CommerceHub’s Series A common stock for each outstanding share of Qurate Retail’s Series A Liberty Ventures common stock as of 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on July 8, 2016 (such date and time, the “Record Date”), (ii) 0.1 of a share of CommerceHub’s Series B common stock for each outstanding share of Qurate Retail’s Series B Liberty Ventures common stock as of the Record Date and (iii) 0.2 of a share of CommerceHub’s Series C common stock for each outstanding share of Series A and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock as of the Record Date, in each case, with cash paid in lieu of fractional shares. This transaction has been recorded at historical cost due to the pro rata nature of the distribution. The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) completed its review of the CommerceHub Spin-Off and notified Qurate Retail that it agreed with the nontaxable characterization of the CommerceHub Spin-Off. CommerceHub is included in Qurate Retail’s Corporate and other segment through July 22, 2016 and is not presented as a discontinued operation as the CommerceHub Spin-Off did not have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations and financial results.

On November 4, 2016, Qurate Retail completed the split-off (the “Expedia Holdings Split-Off”) of its former wholly-owned subsidiary Liberty Expedia Holdings, Inc. (“Expedia Holdings”) to holders of its Liberty Ventures common stock. At the time of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off, Expedia Holdings was comprised of, among other things, Qurate Retail’s former interest in Expedia Group, Inc., formerly known as Expedia, Inc. (“Expedia”) and Qurate Retail’s former wholly-owned subsidiary Bodybuilding. On November 2, 2016, Expedia Holdings borrowed $350 million under a new margin loan and distributed $299 million, net of certain debt related costs, to Qurate Retail on November 4, 2016. The Expedia Holdings Split-Off was accomplished by the redemption of (i) 0.4 of each outstanding share of Qurate Retail’s Series A Liberty Ventures common stock for 0.4 of a share of Expedia Holdings Series A common stock at 5:00 p.m., New York City time, on November 4, 2016 (such date and time, the “Redemption Date”) and (ii) 0.4 of each outstanding share of Qurate Retail’s Series B Liberty Ventures common stock for 0.4 of a share of Expedia Holdings Series B common stock

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on the Redemption Date, in each case, with cash paid in lieu of any fractional shares of Liberty Ventures common stock or Expedia Holdings common stock (after taking into account all of the shares owned of record by each holder thereof, as applicable). The IRS completed its review of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off and informed Qurate Retail that it agreed with the nontaxable characterization of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off.

Qurate Retail viewed Expedia and Bodybuilding as separate components and evaluated them separately for discontinued operations presentation. Based on a quantitative analysis, the split-off of Qurate Retail’s interest in Expedia had a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations, primarily due to one-time gains on transactions recognized by Expedia during 2015. Accordingly, Qurate Retail’s interest in Expedia is presented as a discontinued operation. The disposition of Bodybuilding as part of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off did not have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s historical results nor is it expected to have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s future operations. Accordingly, Bodybuilding is not presented as a discontinued operation.

On December 29, 2017, Qurate Retail acquired the approximate remaining 62% of HSN it did not already own in an all-stock transaction, making HSN its wholly-owned subsidiary, attributed to the QVC Group. On December 31, 2018, Qurate Retail transferred our 100% ownership interest in HSN to QVC, Inc. through a transaction among entities under common control. References throughout this annual report to “QVC” refer to QVC, Inc., which includes HSN, QVC U.S. and QVC International.  Cornerstone remains a subsidiary of Qurate Retail.

On March 9, 2018, Qurate Retail completed the transactions contemplated by the Agreement and Plan of Reorganization (as amended, the “Reorganization Agreement,” and the transactions contemplated thereby, the “Transactions”) among General Communication, Inc. (“GCI”), an Alaska corporation, and Liberty Interactive LLC, a Delaware limited liability company and a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of Qurate Retail (“LI LLC”). Pursuant to the Reorganization Agreement, GCI amended and restated its articles of incorporation (which resulted in GCI being renamed GCI Liberty, Inc. (“GCI Liberty”)) and effected a reclassification and auto conversion of its common stock. After market close on March 8, 2018, Qurate Retail’s board of directors approved the reattribution of certain assets and liabilities from Qurate Retail’s Ventures Group to its QVC Group, which was effective immediately. The reattributed assets and liabilities included cash, Qurate Retail’s interest in ILG, Inc., certain green energy investments, LI LLC’s exchangeable debentures, and certain tax benefits. 

Following these events, Qurate Retail acquired GCI Liberty through a reorganization in which certain Qurate Retail interests, assets and liabilities attributed to the Ventures Group were contributed (the “contribution”) to GCI Liberty in exchange for a controlling interest in GCI Liberty. Qurate Retail and LI LLC contributed to GCI Liberty their entire equity interest in Liberty Broadband, Charter, and LendingTree, the Evite operating business and other assets and liabilities attributed to Qurate Retail’s Venture Group (following the reattribution), in exchange for (a) the issuance to LI LLC of a number of shares of GCI Liberty Class A Common Stock and a number of shares of GCI Liberty Class B Common Stock equal to the number of outstanding shares of Series A Liberty Ventures common stock and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock on March 9, 2018, respectively, (b) cash and (c) the assumption of certain liabilities by GCI Liberty.

Following the contribution, Qurate Retail effected a tax-free separation of its controlling interest in the combined company (the “GCI Liberty Split-Off”), GCI Liberty, to the holders of Liberty Ventures common stock in full redemption of all outstanding shares of such stock, in which each outstanding share of Series A Liberty Ventures common stock was redeemed for one share of GCI Liberty Class A common stock and each outstanding share of Series B Liberty Ventures common stock was redeemed for one share of GCI Liberty Class B common stock.  Simultaneous with the closing of the Transactions, QVC Group common stock became the only outstanding common stock of Qurate Retail, and thus QVC Group common stock ceased to function as a tracking stock. On April 9, 2018, Liberty Interactive Corporation was renamed Qurate Retail, Inc. On May 23, 2018, Qurate Retail amended its charter to eliminate the tracking stock capitalization structure and reclassify each share of QVC Group common stock into one share of the corresponding series of new common stock of Qurate Retail. Throughout this annual report we refer to our Series A and Series B common stock as “Qurate Retail common stock” and “QVC Group common stock.” In July 2018, the IRS completed its review of the GCI Liberty Split-Off and informed Qurate Retail that it agreed with the nontaxable characterization of the transactions. Qurate Retail received an Issue Resolution Agreement from the IRS documenting this conclusion.

Qurate Retail viewed LendingTree, Evite and Liberty Broadband as separate components and evaluated them separately for discontinued operations presentation. Based on a quantitative analysis, the split-off of Qurate Retail’s interest

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in Liberty Broadband had a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations. Accordingly, Qurate Retail’s interest in Liberty Broadband is presented as a discontinued operation. The disposition of Evite and LendingTree as part of the GCI Liberty Split-Off did not have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s historical results nor is it expected to have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s future operations. Accordingly, Evite and LendingTree are not presented as discontinued operations.

On October 17, 2018, Qurate Retail announced a series of initiatives designed to better position its HSN and QVC U.S. businesses (“QRG Initiatives”). As part of the QRG Initiatives, QVC will close its fulfillment center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and has entered into an agreement to lease a new fulfillment center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, commencing in 2019 (see note 15 to the accompanying consolidated financial statements). Qurate Retail recorded transaction related costs of $41 million during the year ended December 31, 2018, which primarily related to severance as a result of the QRG Initiatives. 

 

* * * * *

Certain statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding our business, product and marketing strategies; QRG Initiatives; remediation of material weaknesses; new service offerings;  revenue growth at QVC; synergies; the recoverability of our goodwill and other long-lived assets; our projected sources and uses of cash; and the anticipated impact of certain contingent liabilities related to legal and tax proceedings and other matters arising in the ordinary course of business.  In particular, statements under Item 1. "Business," Item 1A. "Risk-Factors," Item 2. "Properties," Item 7. "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" and Item 7A. "Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk" contain forward-looking statements.  Where, in any forward-looking statement, we express an expectation or belief as to future results or events, such expectation or belief is expressed in good faith and believed to have a reasonable basis, but there can be no assurance that the expectation or belief will result or be achieved or accomplished.  The following include some but not all of the factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from those anticipated:

·

customer demand for our products and services and our ability to anticipate and to adapt to changes in demand;

·

competitor responses to our products and services;

·

increased digital TV penetration and the impact on channel positioning of our programs;

·

the levels of online traffic to our businesses' websites and our ability to convert visitors into consumers or contributors;

·

uncertainties inherent in the development and integration of new business lines and business strategies;

·

our future financial performance, including availability, terms and deployment of capital;

·

our ability to successfully integrate and recognize anticipated efficiencies and benefits from the businesses we acquire;

·

the cost and ability of shipping companies, suppliers and vendors to deliver products, equipment, software and services;

·

the outcome of any pending or threatened litigation;

·

availability of qualified personnel;

·

changes in, or failure or inability to comply with, government regulations, including, without limitation, regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”), and adverse outcomes from regulatory proceedings;

·

changes in the nature of key strategic relationships with partners, distributors, suppliers and vendors;

·

domestic and international economic and business conditions and industry trends;

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·

changes in tariffs, trade policy and trade relations following the 2016 United States (“U.S.”) presidential election and the vote by the United Kingdom (“U.K.”) to exit from the European Union (“Brexit”);

·

consumer spending levels, including the availability and amount of individual consumer debt;

·

advertising spending levels;

·

changes in distribution and viewing of television programming, including the expanded deployment of personal video recorders, video on demand, streaming and Internet protocol (“IP”) television and their impact on home shopping programming;

·

rapid technological changes;

·

failure to protect the security of personal information about our customers,  subjecting us to potentially costly government enforcement actions or private litigation and reputational damage;

·

the regulatory and competitive environment of the industries in which we operate;

·

threatened terrorist attacks, political unrest in international markets  and ongoing military action around the world; and

·

fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates.

These forward-looking statements and such risks, uncertainties and other factors speak only as of the date of this Annual Report, and we expressly disclaim any obligation or undertaking to disseminate any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statement contained herein, to reflect any change in our expectations with regard thereto, or any other change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.  When considering such forward-looking statements, you should keep in mind the factors described in Item 1A, "Risk Factors" and other cautionary statements contained in this Annual Report.  Such risk factors and statements describe circumstances which could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement.

This Annual Report includes information concerning companies in which we have controlling and non-controlling interests that file reports and other information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in accordance with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended.  Information in this Annual Report concerning those companies has been derived from the reports and other information filed by them with the SEC.  If you would like further information about these companies, the reports and other information they file with the SEC can be accessed on the Internet website maintained by the SEC at www.sec.gov.  Those reports and other information are not incorporated by reference in this Annual Report.

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Narrative Description of Business

The following table identifies our more significant subsidiaries and minority investments:

 

Consolidated Subsidiaries

QVC, Inc.

zulily, llc

Cornerstone Brands, Inc.

QVC 

On December 29, 2017, Qurate Retail completed the acquisition of the remaining 62% ownership interest of HSN in an all-stock transaction. On December 31, 2018, Qurate Retail transferred our 100% ownership interest in HSN to QVC, Inc. through a transaction among entities under common control. References throughout this annual report to “QVC” refer to QVC, Inc., which includes HSN, QVC U.S. and QVC International.

QVC curates and sells a wide variety of consumer products via highly engaging, video-rich, interactive shopping experiences distributed to approximately 404 million worldwide households each day (including the joint venture in China as discussed below in further detail), through its broadcast networks, as well as its over-the-top platforms (such as Apple TV, Roku and others), its websites (including QVC.com, HSN.com and others), its mobile applications, and its social pages.  QVC believes it is the global leader in video retailing, e-commerce, mobile commerce and social commerce, with operations based in the U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K., Italy and France. Additionally, it has a 49% interest in a retailing joint venture in China, which operates through a television shopping channel with an associated website. The joint venture is accounted for by QVC as an equity method investment. QVC’s operating strategy is to create premier shopping destinations for its customers across multiple broadcast, digital and emerging platforms (featuring fresh, relevant and compelling product selections and programming), further penetrate its core customer base, generate new customers, and expand internationally to drive revenue and profitability. For the year ended December 31, 2018, approximately 93% of its worldwide shipped sales were from repeat and reactivated customers (i.e., customers who made a purchase from QVC during the prior twelve months and customers who previously made a purchase from QVC but not during the prior twelve months). In the same period, QVC attracted approximately 4.4 million new customers and the global e-commerce operation comprised $5.8 billion, or 51%, of its consolidated net revenue for the year ended December 31, 2018.

In the U.S., QVC distributes its programming live 24 hours per day, 364 days per year. QVC U.S. and HSN present on average 783 and 633 products, respectively, every week. Internationally, QVC distributes live programming 8 to 24 hours per day, depending on the market. In 2018, QVC U.S. and HSN have shipped over 90.5 million and 25.3 million packages, respectively. QVC operates fifteen distribution centers and eight call centers worldwide. In 2018, QVC's work force consisted of approximately 21,400 employees who handled approximately 171 million customer calls, shipped approximately 235 million units globally and served approximately 15.5 million net customers. QVC believes its long-term relationships with major U.S. television distributors, including cable operators (e.g., Comcast and Cox), satellite television providers (e.g., DISH Network and DIRECTV) and telecommunications companies (e.g., Verizon and AT&T), provide it with broad distribution, favorable channel positioning and significant competitive advantages. QVC believes that its significant market share, brand awareness, outstanding customer service, repeat customer base, flexible payment options, international reach and scalable infrastructure distinguishes QVC from its competitors.

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QVC U.S.

QVC U.S.'s live programming is distributed nationally, 24 hours per day, 364 days per year, to approximately 96 million television households. QVC U.S distributes its programming to approximately 99% of households subscribing to services offered by television distributors. QVC U.S. programming is also available on QVC.com, its U.S. website, and mobile applications via streaming video; over-the air broadcasters in 100 markets; and on Facebook Live, Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire platforms. QVC U.S., including QVC.com, contributed $6.3 billion, or 56%, of consolidated net revenue, $1,112 million of operating income and $1,417 million of Adjusted OIBDA (defined in Part II, Item 7 of this report) for the year ended December 31, 2018.

QVC U.S. also has over-the-air broadcasting in designated U.S. markets that can be accessed by any household with a digital antenna in such markets, regardless of whether it subscribes to a paid television service.  This allows QVC U.S. to reach customers who previously did not have access to the program through other television platforms. QVC U.S. launched an additional channel, QVC2, which is being distributed through cable and satellite systems and on QVC’s digital platforms. QVC2 offers viewers access to a broader range of QVC programming options as well as more relevant programming for viewers in differing time zones. In October 2016, QVC U.S. launched a third channel, Beauty iQ, which is being distributed through cable, satellite, streaming and digital platforms. The channel and supporting platforms are primarily dedicated to a complete beauty shopping experience for customers.

QVC.com enables consumers to purchase goods offered on its broadcast programming along with a wide assortment of products that are available only on QVC.com. QVC.com and other digital platforms (including its mobile apps, its social pages and others)  are natural extensions of its business model, allowing customers to engage in its shopping experience wherever they are, with live or on-demand content customized to the device they are using. In addition, QVC.com allows shoppers to browse, research, compare and perform targeted searches for products, read customer reviews, control the orderentry process and conveniently access their QVC account. For the year ended December 31, 2018, approximately 84% of new U.S. customers made their first purchase through QVC.com (including through its mobile application). QVC.com usage as a percentage of total QVC U.S. net revenue has increased from 52.2% in 2016 to 57.9% in 2018.

QVC International

QVC International brings the QVC shopping experience to approximately 145 million households outside the U.S., primarily in Germany, Austria, Japan, the U.K., the Republic of Ireland, Italy and France. Similar to the U.S. business its international business engages customers via multiple platforms, including broadcast networks, websites, mobile applications and social pages. QVC International product sourcing teams select products tailored to the interests of each local market. For the year ended December 31, 2018, QVC International generated $2.7 billion, or 24%, of consolidated net revenue, $351 million of operating income and $429 million of Adjusted OIBDA (defined in Part II, Item 7 of this report) and QVC International’s websites generated $1,051 million, or 38%, of its total international net revenue.

HSN

HSN broadcasts live nationally, 24 hours per day, 364 days per year, reaching approximately 96 million homes in the U.S. HSN2, which debuted in August 2010, primarily distributes pre-recorded programming. HSN also operates an e-commerce website, a mobile application, social pages and innovative “Shop By Remote” technology. HSN, including HSN.com, contributed $2.2 billion or 20% of consolidated net revenue, $49 million of operating income and $213 million of Adjusted OIBDA (defined in Part II, Item 7 of this report) for the year ended December 31, 2018.

HSN.com allows customers to buy merchandise offered on the HSN broadcasts, along with a wide assortment of merchandise sold exclusively on HSN.com. HSN.com offers customers a content rich experience, featuring live video on-demand product and how-to videos and customer reviews. HSN.com sales as a percentage of total HSN net revenue has increased from 45.1% in 2016 to 48.8% in 2018.

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Merchandise

QVC’s global merchandise mix features: (i) home, (ii) apparel, (iii) beauty, (iv) accessories, (v) electronics and (vi) jewelry. Many of its brands are exclusive, while others are created by well-known designers. QVC’s global sales mix is provided in the table below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ended December 31,

Product category

2018

 

2017 (1)

 

2016 (1)

Home

38%

 

34%

 

33%

Beauty

18%

 

17%

 

17%

Apparel

16%

 

19%

 

19%

Accessories

11%

 

13%

 

13%

Electronics

11%

 

9%

 

9%

Jewelry

6%

 

8%

 

9%

Total

100%

 

100%

 

100%

(1)

For the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016 in the table above, the sales mix does not include HSN. 

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar retailers with inventories across a network of stores, QVC is able to quickly adapt its offerings in direct response to changes in its customers purchasing patterns. QVC utilizes a test and re-order model to determine initial customer demand. Through constant monitoring, QVC manages its product offerings to maximize net revenue and fulfill current demand in large growth segments where it can gain a greater share of its customers' purchases. QVC’s merchandising team is dedicated to continually researching, pursuing and launching new products and brands. With a mandate to deliver hard-to-find value, its merchants find and curate collections of high quality goods from manufacturers with the scale to offer sufficient supply to QVC’s  existing and future customers. QVC maintains strong relationships with its vendors, which are attracted by the showcasing and story-telling elements of its programming, and the volume of sales during featured presentations.  

QVC purchases, or obtains on consignment, products from U.S. and foreign manufacturers and wholesalers, often on favorable terms based upon the volume of the transactions. QVC has attracted some of the world's most respected consumer brands as well as celebrities, entrepreneurs and designers to promote these brands. Brand leaders such as Dell, Dooney & Bourke, Dyson, Judith Ripka and Philosophy reach a broad audience while product representatives share the stories behind these brands. QVC has agreements with celebrities, entrepreneurs and designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart enabling it to provide entertaining and engaging programming that develops a lifestyle bond with its customers. These celebrity personalities and product representatives often provide pre-appearance publicity for their QVC products on their own social pages and broadcast shows, enhancing demand during their QVC appearances. QVC presents and promotes across its networks, websites, mobile applications and social platforms, allowing shoppers to engage with QVC on multiple platforms and devices.

QVC does not depend on any single supplier or designer for a significant portion of its inventory purchases.

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Distribution

QVC distributes its programming via satellite and optical fiber, to cable television and/or direct-to-home satellite system operators for retransmission to their subscribers in the U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K.,  Italy and neighboring countries. QVC also transmits its programming over digital terrestrial broadcast television to viewers throughout Italy, Germany, and the U.K. and to viewers in certain geographic regions in the U.S. In the U.S., QVC uplinks its digital programming transmissions using a third-party service, or internal resources. The transmissions are uplinked to protected, non-preemptible transponders on U.S. satellites. "Protected" status means that, in the event of a transponder failure, the signal will be transferred to a spare transponder or, if none is available, to a preemptible transponder located on the same satellite or, in certain cases, to a transponder on another satellite owned by the same service provider if one is available at the time of the failure. "Non-preemptible" status means that, in the event of a transponder failure, QVC's transponders cannot be preempted in favor of a user of a failed transponder, even another user with "protected status." The international business units each obtain uplinking services from third parties and transmit their programming to non-preemptible transponders on international satellites and terrestrial transmitters. The transponder service agreements for the U.S. transponders expire at the earlier of the end of the lives of the satellites or the service agreements. The service agreements for QVC U.S. and HSN expire between 2019 and 2025.   The service agreements for QVC International for the international transponders and terrestrial transmitters expire between 2019 and 2027.

QVC continually seeks to expand and enhance its broadcast and e-commerce platforms, as well as to further its international operations and multimedia capabilities. QVC offers  native high definition (“HD”) programming in addition to standard definition programming, which provides additional channel locations and allows QVC to utilize a typically wider screen with crisper and more colorful images to present a larger “storefront,” which QVC believes captures the attention of channel “surfers” and engages its customers. In the U.S., QVCHD and HSNHD reach approximately 85 million and 75 million households, respectively. QVC continues to develop and launch features to further enrich the viewing experience.

Beyond the live programming QVC networks in the U.S., Germany and the U.K. also broadcast on additional networks that offer viewers access to a broader range of QVC programming options. These networks include QVC2, HSN2 and Beauty iQ in the U.S., QVC Style and QVC2 in Germany, and QVC Beauty, QVC Extra, and QVC Style in the U.K.

Affiliation Agreements

QVC enters into long-term affiliation agreements with certain of its television distributors who downlink its programming and distribute the programming to customers. QVC's affiliation agreements with distributors have termination dates ranging from 2019 to 2024. QVC's ability to continue to sell products to its customers is dependent on its ability to maintain and renew these affiliation agreements in the future. Although QVC is typically successful in obtaining and renewing these agreements, it does not have distribution agreements with some of the distributors that carry its programming. In total, QVC is currently providing programming without affiliation agreements to distributors representing approximately 6.4% of its QVC U.S. distribution, and approximately 0.4% of its HSN distribution. Some of its international programming may continue to be carried by distributors after the expiration dates on its affiliation agreements with such distributors have passed.

In return for carrying QVC's signals, each programming distributor for its U.S. distribution receives an allocated portion, based upon market share, of up to 5% of the net sales of merchandise sold via the television programs and from certain Internet sales to customers located in the programming distributor's service areas. In some cases, pay television operators receive additional compensation in the form of commission guarantees in exchange for their commitments to deliver a specified number of subscribers, channel placement incentives and advertising insertion time. QVC International programming distributors predominantly receive an agreed-upon annual fee, a monthly or yearly fee per subscriber regardless of the net sales, a variable percentage of net sales or some combination of the above arrangements.

In addition to sales-based commissions or per-subscriber fees, QVC also makes payments to distributors primarily in the U.S. for carriage and to secure channel positioning within a broadcast area or within the general entertainment area on the distributor's channel line-up.  QVC believes that a portion of its sales are attributable to purchases resulting from channel “surfing” and that a channel position near broadcast networks and more popular cable networks increases the

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likelihood of such purchases. As technology evolves, QVC will continue to monitor optimal channel placement and attempt to negotiate agreements with its distributors to maximize the viewership of its television programming.

Demographics of customers

QVC enjoys a very loyal customer base, as demonstrated by the fact that for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018, approximately 86% of its QVC U.S. and HSN shipped sales came from repeat customers (i.e., customers who made a purchase from QVC during the prior twelve months), who spent an average of $1,064 each during this period. An additional 7% of shipped sales in that period came from reactivated customers (i.e., customers who previously made a purchase from QVC, but not during the prior twelve months).

QVC had slight growth in customer count during 2018, not including the impact for the inclusion of HSN. On a trailing twelve month basis, total net consolidated customers were approximately 15.5 million, which includes gross customers of approximately 8.3 million at QVC U.S., 4.5 million at HSN, and approximately 4.7 million at QVC International. QVC believes its core customer base represents an attractive demographic target market. Based on internal customer data for QVC U.S. and HSN, approximately 51%  of its 12.8 million U.S. customers for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018 were women between the ages of 35 and 64.

Ordering and fulfillment

QVC strives to be prompt and efficient in order taking and fulfillment. QVC takes a majority of its orders via its websites and via mobile applications on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Android and other platforms. QVC U.S, QVC International, and HSN customers placed approximately 39%, 29% and 32%, respectively, of all orders directly through their mobile devices in 2018.

QVC U.S. has two customer contact centers, located in San Antonio, Texas and Chesapeake, Virginia, that can direct calls, e-mail contacts and social contacts from one center to the other as volume mandates. HSN has one customer center, located in St. Petersburg, Florida. Internationally, QVC also has customer contact centers in Chiba, Japan; Knowsley, U.K.; Brugherio, Italy; and Bochum and Kassel, Germany. For France, order taking is handled by a third party located in Portugal. Many markets also utilize home agents to handle calls, allowing staffing flexibility for peak hours. In addition, QVC utilizes computerized interactive voice response order systems for telephonic orders, which handle approximately 24.1% of all orders taken on a worldwide basis.

QVC U.S.’s distribution centers are located in Suffolk, Virginia; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Florence, South Carolina; and Ontario, California. QVC U.S.’s distribution centers and dropship partners have shipped nearly 698,000 units in a single day during 2018.  HSN’s distribution centers are located in Bristol, Virginia; Piney Flats, Tennessee; Fontana, California; Greeneville, Tennessee; Morristown, Tennessee and Roanoke, Virginia, and they were able to ship 314,000 units in a single day during 2018.  QVC International also has distribution centers in Sakura-shi, Chiba, Japan;  Hücklehoven, Germany; Knowsley, U.K.; and Castel San Giovanni, Italy.

QVC has built a scalable operating infrastructure focused on sustaining efficient, flexible and cost-effective sale and distribution of its products. QVC requires lower inventory levels and capital expenditures compared to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. In recent years, QVC has made significant investments in its distribution centers that it believes will accommodate its foreseeable growth needs. Further, since QVC has no set “floor plan” and can closely manage inventory levels at its centralized warehouses, QVC believes it has the flexibility to analyze and react quickly to changing trends and demand by shifting programming time and product mix. QVC's cost structure is highly variable, which QVC believes allows it to consistently achieve attractive margins relative to brick-and-mortar retailers.

Third party carriers transport QVC's packages from its distribution centers to its customers. In each market where QVC operates, it has negotiated long-term contracts with shipping companies, which in certain circumstances provides for favorable shipping rates.

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Competition

QVC operates in a rapidly evolving and highly competitive retail business environment. Based on domestic net revenue for the twelve months ended December 31, 2018, QVC is the leading video retailer in the U.S. and generates substantially more net revenue than its closest video shopping competitor, EVINE Live Inc. (“EVINE Live”).  QVC International operations face similar competition in their respective markets, such as Shop Channel in Japan, HSE 24 in Germany, Austria and Italy, Ideal World in the U.K., and M6 Boutique in France.  Additionally, QVC has numerous and varied competitors at the national and local levels, ranging from large department stores to specialty shops, e-commerce retailers, direct marketing retailers, wholesale clubs, discount retailers, infomercial retailers, and mail-order and catalog companies.

QVC also competes for access to customers and audience share with other providers of broadcast, online and hard copy entertainment and content. The price and availability of other programming and the conversion to digital programming platforms may unfavorably affect the placement of its programming in the channel line-ups of its distributors, and may affect its ability to obtain distribution agreements with small cable distributors. Competition from other programming also affects the compensation that must be paid to distributors for carriage, which continues to increase. Principal competitive factors for QVC include (i) value, quality and selection of merchandise; (ii) customer experience, including customer service and reliability of fulfillment and delivery services; and (iii) convenience and accessibility of sales channels.

QVC established QVC U.S. and HSN as leaders in video shopping, e-commerce, mobile commerce and social commerce by curating quality products at outstanding values, providing exceptional customer service, establishing favorable channel positioning and multiple touchpoints across all digital platforms and generating repeat business from its core customer base.  QVC believes QVC U.S. and HSN also compare favorably in terms of sales to general, non-video based retailers due to its extensive customer reach and efficient cost structure.

Intellectual Property

QVC regards its trademarks, service marks, patents, copyrights, domain names, trade dress, trade secrets, proprietary technologies and similar intellectual property as critical to its success. QVC relies on a combination of trademark, patent and copyright law, tradesecret protection, and confidentiality and/or license agreements with its employees, customers, suppliers, affiliates and others to protect these proprietary rights. QVC has registered, or applied for the registration of, a number of trademarks, service marks, patents, copyrights and domain names through U.S. and foreign governmental authorities and vigorously protects its proprietary rights against infringement.

Domestically, QVC has registered trademarks and service marks including, but not limited to its brand names and logo, "QVC," "Quality Value Convenience," "Find What You Love, Love What You Find," the "Q Logo," and "Q" and trademarks for its proprietary products sold such as "Arte D'Oro," "Cook's Essentials," "Denim & Co.," "Diamonique," “Nature’s Code,” "Northern Nights" and "Ultrafine Silver."  Similarly, foreign registrations have been obtained for many trademarks and service marks for its brand names, logo and propriety products including, but not limited to, "QVC," the "Q Logo," "Q," "Cook’s Essentials," "Denim & Co.," "Diamonique" and "Northern Nights."

HSN has numerous trademark registrations or pending applications in the United States which help to expand HSN’s brand awareness.  These registrations and applications include the “HSN” brand name and the “HSN logo” as well as registrations for HSN’s proprietary products and services, including, but not limited to, “HSN Shop By Remote,” “Technibond,” and “Concierge Collection.”

QVC considers the "QVC" and “HSN” names the most significant trademarks and service marks it holds because of their impact on market awareness across all of its geographic markets and on customers' identification with QVC. As with all domestic trademarks or service marks, QVC's trademark and service mark registrations in the U.S. are for a ten year period and are renewable every ten years, prior to their respective expirations, as long as the trademarks or service marks are used in the regular course of trade.

 

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Seasonality

QVC's business is seasonal due to a higher volume of sales in the fourth calendar quarter related to year-end holiday shopping. In recent years, QVC has earned, on average, between 22% and 24% of its global revenue in each of the first three quarters of the year and between 30% and 32% of its global revenue in the fourth quarter of the year.

Cornerstone

Cornerstone consists of a portfolio of aspirational home and apparel brands, prominent in the direct marketing and retail space, including catalog distribution and related websites. Although there is some overlap in the product offerings, the home brands are comprised of Frontgate, Ballard Designs and Grandin Road. Garnet Hill focuses primarily on apparel and accessories and is categorized as an apparel brand. There are also 20 retail and outlet stores located throughout the United States.

Frontgate features premium, high quality indoor (including bed, bath, kitchen, dining and living room) and outdoor (including patio, garden and pool) furnishings and accessories. Ballard Designs features European‑inspired bed, bath, dining, outdoor and office furnishings and accessories, as well as rugs, shelving and architectural accents for the home. Grandin Road offers an affordable style assortment of products ranging from occasional furniture, accessories, holiday décor and outdoor furniture.

The Cornerstone brands generally incorporate on-site photography and real-life settings, coupled with related editorial content describing the merchandise and depicting situations in which it may be used. Branded catalogs are designed and produced in-house, which enables each individual brand to control the production process and reduces the amount of lead time required to produce a given catalog.

New editions of full-color catalogs are mailed to customers several times each year, with a total annual circulation in 2018 of approximately 222 million catalogs. The timing and frequency of catalog circulation varies by brand and depends upon a number of factors, including the timing of the introduction of new products, marketing campaigns and promotions and inventory levels, among other factors.

Cornerstone also operates websites for each of its featured brands, such as Frontgate.com, BallardDesigns.com, GarnetHill.com and GrandinRoad.com. These websites serve as additional storefronts for products featured in related print catalogs, as well as provide customers with additional content and product assortments to support and enhance their shopping experience. Additional content provided by these websites, which differs across the various websites, includes decorating tips, measuring information, online design centers, gift registries and travel centers, as well as a feature that allows customers to browse the related catalog online. In addition, a growing number of customers use mobile devices to shop the Cornerstone brands.

The Cornerstone brands differentiate themselves by offering customers an assortment of innovative proprietary and branded apparel and home products. In many cases, Cornerstone seeks to secure exclusive distribution rights for certain products. Cornerstone employs in-house designers and partners with leading manufacturers and designers to aid in the development of its unique, exclusive product assortment. The Cornerstone brands use their respective websites and e-mail marketing to promote special offers, including cross-promotions for other Cornerstone brands. In addition, Cornerstone partners with third parties to offer promotional events such as sweepstakes and/or enter into other advertising agreements. Cornerstone believes that these affiliations enhance the awareness of the Cornerstone brands among consumers as well as strengthen its various brands overall. Cornerstone has also been extending its distributed commerce platform through both its experiential and more traditional retail and outlet stores, as a marketing tool to increase demand in the overall regions where the stores reside.

zulily

On October 1, 2015, we acquired 100% of zulily. zulily is an online retailer offering customers a fun and entertaining shopping experience with a fresh selection of new product styles every day. The zulily website was launched in January 2010 with the goal of revolutionizing the way consumers shop. Through its app, mobile and desktop

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experiences, zulily helps its customers discover new and unique products at great values that they would likely not find elsewhere. zulily’s merchandise includes women’s, children’s and men’s apparel and other products such as home, accessories and beauty products. zulily sources its merchandise from thousands of vendors, including emerging brands and smaller boutique vendors, as well as larger national brands. By bringing together millions of customers and a daily selection of products chosen from its broad vendor base, zulily has built a large scale and uniquely curated shopping destination.

Every morning, zulily launches a variety of flash sales events. These events feature thousands of product styles from different vendors and typically last for 72 hours. Product offerings are typically only available for a limited time and in a limited quantity, creating urgency to browse, discover and purchase.

Before zulily launches an event, zulily obtains photographs of the merchandise and its editorial team writes about the merchandise based on the product details provided by the vendor. zulily strives to offer the lowest price points for its customers, with the average item offered for a significant discount off the manufacturer’s suggested or comparison retail price. zulily then uses its proprietary technology, data analytics and personalization tools to segment its audience, offering each customer a curated and optimized shopping experience that features brands, products and events that it believes are most relevant for that customer.

zulily acquires new customers through a diverse set of paid and unpaid marketing channels, including affiliate channels and partners, customer referrals, direct navigation, display advertising, key word search campaigns, search engine optimization, social media and television ads. Core to its business model is that zulily acquires customers via paid and unpaid sources, and then drives engagement and repeat purchases from those customers over a long period of time through diversified marketing channels.  

Continual innovation through investment in technology is core to zulily’s business. zulily uses its technology platform to improve the experience of its customers and vendors, increase the purchase frequency and average order size and optimize the efficiency of its business operations. zulily’s technology team is focused on rapid innovation through advanced agile software development processes. Investment in machine learning and data science helps place the right product in front of the right customer at the right time. zulily’s scalable platform uses custom-built and third-party technologies to support its specific customer and vendor requirements, including handling significant spikes in site traffic and transactions on a daily basis, and the rapid and complex order supply chain needs that are unique to zulily’s flash sales and minimal inventory model. zulily believes it can quickly scale its infrastructure to accommodate significantly higher volumes of site traffic, customers, orders and the overall growth in its business.

To best serve its customers and vendors, zulily has a custom, fully integrated fulfillment infrastructure consisting of receiving, sorting, inventory management and repackaging systems which are driven by proprietary fulfillment management software. zulily’s supply chain solution efficiently handles the small-to-medium lot sizes and high inventory turnover required by constantly changing, limited-time product offerings. zulily operates a minimal inventory, intermediary model where it typically takes customer orders before purchasing inventory from vendors. As a result, zulily is able to offer a much larger selection of products to customers and to generate greater sales for vendors, who are able to match a broader range of their product supply to actual customer demand. In addition, zulily also offers third party fulfillment services to its vendors. This program allows vendors to store their inventory in zulily’s warehouses and fulfill orders for zulily’s events or other retail channels and has helped reduce shipping times to zulily customers.

zulily views its target market broadly and competes with any retailer where its customers shop. It faces significant competition from both online and offline retailers, competing on: product curation and selection, personalization, price, convenience, ease of use, consumer experience, vendor satisfaction and shipping time and cost.  

zulily relies on laws and regulations, contractual restrictions, copyrights, and trademarks to protect its intellectual property and proprietary rights. zulily’s employees and contractors also typically enter into agreements to assign to zulily the inventions and content they produce in performing their jobs. zulily controls access to confidential information by entering into confidentiality agreements with its employees, contractors and third parties, such as vendors, service providers, individuals and entities that may be exploring a business relationship with zulily. Despite the protection of general intellectual property law and its contractual restrictions, it may be possible for a third party to copy or otherwise obtain and use zulily’s intellectual property without zulily’s authorization.

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zulily has registered numerous Internet domain names related to its business. In addition, zulily pursues the registration of its trademarks in the U.S. and certain other locations outside of the U.S.; however, effective intellectual property protection or enforcement may not be available in every country in which zulily’s products and services are made available in the future. In the U.S. and certain other countries, zulily has registered or has applications pending for its key trademarks, including: zulily, the zulily design mark and designs associated with its mobile applications and branded social channels.  

zulily’s results are impacted by a pattern of elevated sales volume during the back-to-school shopping season in the third quarter and holiday shopping season in the fourth quarter.  The fourth quarter accounted for approximately 30.3% and 32.2% of zulily’s revenue for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively.

Regulatory Matters

Programming and Interactive Television Services

Although QVC,  a  wholly owned subsidiary, markets and sells consumer products through a variety of outlets, it does so, in large part, through live video programming services distributed by cable television systems, satellite systems and over-the-air broadcasters.  Consequently, regulation of programming services and the entities that distribute it can affect QVC.  In the U.S., the FCC regulates broadcasters, the providers of satellite communications services and facilities for the transmission of programming services, the cable television systems and other multichannel video programming distributors (“MVPDs”) that distribute such services, and, to some extent, the availability of the programming services themselves through its regulation of program licensing. Cable television systems in the U.S. are also regulated by municipalities or other state and local government authorities. Regulatory carriage requirements also could adversely affect the number of channels available to QVC.

Regulation of Program Licensing. The Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 (the “1992 Cable Act”) directed the FCC to promulgate regulations regarding the sale and acquisition of cable programming between MVPDs (including cable operators) and satellite-delivered programming services in which a cable operator has an attributable interest. The 1992 Cable Act and implementing regulations generally prohibit a cable operator that has an attributable interest in a satellite programmer from improperly influencing the terms and conditions of sale to unaffiliated MVPDs. Further, the 1992 Cable Act requires that such affiliated programmers make their programming services available to cable operators and competing MVPDs such as multi-channel multi-point distribution systems and direct broadcast satellite system (“DBS”) distributors on terms and conditions that do not unfairly discriminate among distributors, and the FCC has established complaint enforcement and damages remedy procedures. FCC rules attribute the ownership interest in Charter of Liberty Broadband, and Liberty Latin America Ltd.’s ownership interest in Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico LLC to us, thereby subjecting us and satellite-delivered programming services in which we have an interest to the program access rules. Our subsidiary QVC is subjected to program access rules as a result of our attributable interest in Charter under FCC rules.  We are also subject to the program access rules as a condition of FCC approval of Qurate Retail’s transaction with News Corporation in 2008.

In 2014, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on a proposal to revise the definition of MVPD in its rules to include services, such as Internet-based services, that make available for purchase by viewers, multiple linear streams of video programming, regardless of the technology used to distribute the programming.  If the FCC were to adopt its proposed definition and determine that the program access rules apply to such MVPDs, QVC potentially would be required to negotiate with, and license their programming services to, such MVPDs and to comply with other related regulatory requirements.

Regulation of Carriage of Programming. Under the 1992 Cable Act, the FCC has adopted regulations prohibiting cable operators from requiring a financial interest in a programming service as a condition to carriage of such service, coercing exclusive rights in a programming service or favoring affiliated programmers so as to restrain unreasonably the ability of unaffiliated programmers to compete. The FCC has established program carriage complaint rules. Our subsidiary QVC is subjected to program carriage rules as a result of our attributable interest in Charter under FCC rules.

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Regulation of Ownership. The 1992 Cable Act required the FCC, among other things, (1) to prescribe rules and regulations establishing reasonable limits on the number of channels on a cable system that will be allowed to carry programming in which the owner of such cable system has an attributable interest and (2) to consider the necessity and appropriateness of imposing limitations on the degree to which MVPDs (including cable operators) may engage in the creation or production of video programming. Although the FCC adopted regulations limiting carriage by a cable operator, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) vacated the channel occupancy limits adopted by the FCC and remanded the rule to the FCC for further consideration in 2001. In response to the D.C. Circuit’s decision, the FCC subsequently issued further notices of proposed rulemaking to consider channel occupancy limitations, but has not adopted any rules.

Regulation of Carriage of Broadcast Stations. The 1992 Cable Act granted broadcasters a choice of must carry rights or retransmission consent rights. The rules adopted by the FCC generally provided for mandatory carriage by cable systems of all local full-power commercial television broadcast signals selecting must carry rights and, depending on a cable system's channel capacity, non-commercial television broadcast signals. Such statutorily mandated carriage of broadcast stations coupled with the provisions of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, which require cable television systems with 36 or more "activated" channels to reserve a percentage of such channels for commercial use by unaffiliated third parties and permit franchise authorities to require the cable operator to provide channel capacity, equipment and facilities for public, educational and government access channels, could adversely affect QVC by limiting the carriage of such services in cable systems with limited channel capacity.

Closed Captioning Regulation. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 also required the FCC to establish rules and an implementation schedule to ensure that video programming is fully accessible to the hearing impaired through closed captioning. The rules adopted by the FCC require substantial closed captioning, with only limited exemptions. In 2012, the FCC adopted regulations pursuant to the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 that require, among other things, video programming owners to send caption files for IP delivered video programming to video programming distributors and providers along with program files. In 2014, the FCC adopted closed captioning quality standards regarding captioning accuracy, synchronicity, completeness and placement, and captioning best practices for programmers. In 2016, the FCC amended its closed captioning regulations to assign captioning compliance responsibility to programmers jointly with distributors, and to adopt certain registration, certification and complaint procedures applicable to programmers. The video programmer registration and compliance certification requirements of the amended rules have not yet become effective. As a result of these captioning requirements, QVC may incur additional costs for closed captioning.

Internet Services

Our online commerce businesses are subject, both directly and indirectly, to various domestic and foreign laws and governmental regulations. Certain of these businesses engaged in the provision of goods and services over the Internet must comply with federal and state laws and regulations applicable to online communications and commerce. For example, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act ("COPPA") prohibits web sites from collecting personally identifiable information online from children under age 13 without parental consent and imposes a number of operational requirements. The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") has adopted regulations implementing COPPA. Certain email activities are subject to the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, commonly known as the CAN-SPAM Act. The CAN-SPAM Act regulates the sending of unsolicited commercial email by requiring the email sender, among other things, to comply with specific disclosure requirements and to provide an "opt-out" mechanism for recipients. Both of these laws include statutory penalties for non-compliance. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act limits, but does not eliminate, liability for listing or linking to third party websites that may include content that infringes on copyrights or other rights so long as our Internet businesses comply with the statutory requirements. Various states also have adopted laws regulating certain aspects of Internet communications. In 2016, Congress enacted a permanent moratorium on state and local taxes on Internet access and commerce.

Our online commerce businesses also are subject to laws governing the collection, use, retention, security and transfer of personally-identifiable information about their users. In particular, the collection and use of personal information by companies has received increased regulatory scrutiny on a global basis. The enactment, interpretation and application of user data protection laws are in a state of flux, and the interpretation and application of such laws may vary from country

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to country. For example, the European Union’s (“EU”) General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) which established new data laws that give customers additional rights and impose additional restrictions and penalties on companies for illegal collection and misuse of personal information, took effect in May 2018. Further, in 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union invalidated the “Safe Harbor Framework,” which had allowed companies to collect and process personal data in EU nations for use in the U.S. A new data transfer framework, the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, became fully operational on August 1, 2016, but is the subject of litigation. Finally, the European Commission proposed new regulations in 2017 regarding privacy and electronic communications, which would remain pending, including additional regulation of the Internet tracking tools known as “cookies.”

In the U.S., the FTC has proposed a privacy policy framework, and the new Congress may consider legislation that would require organizations that suffer a breach of security related to personal information to notify owners of such information. Many states have adopted laws requiring notification to users when there is a security breach affecting personal data, such as California's Information Practices Act. California also has enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”), which, among other things, allows California consumers to request that certain companies disclose the types of personal information collected by such companies. The CCPA takes effect on January 1, 2020. Complying with these different national and state privacy requirements may cause the Internet companies in which we have interests to incur substantial costs. In addition, such companies generally have and post on their websites privacy policies and practices regarding the collection, use and disclosure of user data. A failure to comply with such posted privacy policies or with the regulatory requirements of federal, state, or foreign privacy laws could result in proceedings or actions by governmental agencies or others (such as class action litigation) which could adversely affect our online commerce businesses. Technical violations of certain privacy laws can result in significant penalties, including statutory penalties. In 2012, the FCC amended its regulations under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA"), which could subject our Internet businesses to increased liability for certain telephonic communications with customers, including but not limited to text messages to mobile phones. Under the TCPA, plaintiffs may seek actual monetary loss or statutory damages of $500 per violation, whichever is greater, and courts may treble such damage awards for willful or knowing violations. Data collection, privacy and security are growing public concerns. If consumers were to decrease their use of our Internet businesses' websites to purchase products and services, such businesses could be harmed.  Congress, individual states and foreign authorities may consider additional online privacy legislation.

Goods sold over the Internet also must comply with traditional regulatory requirements, such as the FTC requirements regarding truthful and accurate claims. Other Internet-related laws and regulations enacted in the future may cover issues such as defamatory speech, copyright infringement, pricing and characteristics and quality of products and services. The future adoption of such laws or regulations may slow the growth of commercial online services and the Internet, which could in turn cause a decline in the demand for the services and products of our online commerce businesses and increase their costs of doing business or otherwise have an adverse effect on their businesses, operating results and financial conditions. Moreover, the applicability to commercial online services and the Internet of existing laws governing issues such as property ownership, libel, personal privacy and taxation is uncertain and could expose these companies to substantial liability.

In 2015, the FCC adopted open Internet rules that reclassified wireline and wireless broadband services as Title II common carrier services and regulate broadband services offered by Internet service providers (“ISPs”) under Title II, Title III and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  Among other things, the regulations prohibited ISPs from: (1) blocking access to, or impairing or degrading, legal content, applications, services or non-harmful devices; and (2) favoring selected Internet traffic in exchange for consideration. On December 14, 2017, the FCC adopted a Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order and Order (“2017 Order”) that, among other things, eliminates these prohibitions.  The 2017 Order does require ISPs to disclose information to consumers regarding practices such as throttling, paid prioritization and affiliated prioritization.  Various parties have challenged the 2017 Order in court.  Legislative proposals regarding the open Internet rules are pending in Congress.

Proposed Changes in Regulation

The regulation of programming services, cable television systems, DBS providers, Internet services, online sales and other forms of product marketing is subject to the political process and has been in constant flux over the past decade.

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Further material changes in the law and regulatory requirements must be anticipated and there can be no assurance that our business will not be adversely affected by future legislation, new regulation or deregulation.

Competition

Our businesses that engage in video and online commerce compete with traditional brick-and-mortar 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.  Due to the nature of these businesses there is not a single or small group of competitors that own a significant portion of the overall market share.  However, some of these competitors, such as Amazon and Walmart, have a significantly greater web-presence than our e-commerce subsidiaries and equity affiliates. We believe that the principal competitive factors in the markets in which our electronic commerce businesses compete are high-quality products, brand recognition, selection, value, convenience, price, website performance, customer service and accuracy of order shipment.  Our businesses that offer services through the Internet compete with businesses that offer their own services directly through the Internet as well as with traditional offline providers of similar services.  We believe that the principal competitive factors in the markets in which our businesses that offer services through the Internet engage are selection, price, availability of inventory, convenience, brand recognition, accessibility, customer service, reliability, website performance, and ease of use.

Employees

As of December 31, 2018, our corporate function is supported by a services agreement with LMC which has approximately 86 corporate employees who are also considered employees of Qurate Retail. Additionally, our consolidated subsidiaries had an aggregate of approximately 27,140 full and part-time employees.  We believe that our employee relations are good.

 Available Information

All of our filings with the SEC, including our Form 10-Ks, Form 10-Qs and Form 8-Ks, as well as amendments to such filings are available on our Internet website free of charge generally within 24 hours after we file such material with the SEC.  Our website address is www.qurateretail.com.

Our corporate governance guidelines, code of business conduct and ethics, compensation committee charter, nominating and corporate governance committee charter, and audit committee charter are available on our website.  In addition, we will provide a copy of any of these documents, free of charge, to any shareholder who calls or submits a request in writing to Investor Relations, Qurate Retail, Inc., 12300 Liberty Boulevard, Englewood, Colorado 80112, Tel. No. (866)  876-0461.

The information contained on our website and the websites of our subsidiaries and affiliated businesses mentioned throughout this report are not incorporated by reference herein.

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Item 1A. Risk Factors 

The risks described below and elsewhere in this annual report are not the only ones that relate to our businesses or our capitalization.  The risks described below are considered to be the most material.  However, there may be other unknown or unpredictable economic, business, competitive, regulatory or other factors that also could have material adverse effects on our businesses.  Past financial performance may not be a reliable indicator of future performance and historical trends should not be used to anticipate results or trends in future periods.  If any of the events described below were to occur, our businesses, prospects, financial condition, results of operations and/or cash flows could be materially adversely affected.

Our historical financial information may not necessarily reflect our results had our former QVC Group been a separate company.  During the first quarter of 2018, we completed the Transactions. As a result, our company no longer utilizes a tracking stock structure, which had been intended to track and reflect the economic performance of the businesses, assets and liabilities attributed to the QVC Group and Ventures Group. We previously adopted this structure in 2012 to, among other reasons, permit equity investors to apply more specific criteria in valuing the shares of a particular group, such as comparisons of earnings multiples with those of other companies in the same business sector. In valuing shares of our company’s common stock, investors should recognize that our historical financial information has been extracted from our consolidated financial statements prior to the Transactions and may not necessarily reflect what our company’s results of operations, financial condition and cash flows would have been had the QVC Group and the Ventures Group been separate, stand-alone entities pursuing independent strategies during the periods presented.

   

Our subsidiary QVC depends on the television distributors that carry its programming, and no assurance can be given that QVC will be able to maintain and renew its affiliation agreements on favorable terms or at all. QVC currently distributes its programming through affiliation or transmission agreements with many television providers, including, but not limited to, Comcast, AT&T/DIRECTV, Charter, DISH Network, Verizon and Cox in the U.S., Vodafone Kabel Deutschland GmbH, Media Broadcast GmbH, SES ASTRA, SES Platform Services GmbH, Telekom Deutschland GmbH, Unitymedia GmbH, Tele Columbus and Primacom in Germany, Jupiter Telecommunications, Ltd., Sky Perfect and World Hi-Vision Channel, Inc. in Japan, A1 Telekom Austria AG and UPC Telekabel Wien GmbH in Austria, British Sky Broadcasting, Freesat, Freeview and Virgin Media in the U.K., Mediaset, Hot Bird and Sky Italia in Italy, and Orange, Free, Canalsat, Bouygues Telecom and Fransat in France. QVC’s affiliation agreements with its distributors are scheduled to expire between 2019 and 2024.  As part of normal course renewal discussions, occasionally QVC has disagreements with its distributors over the terms of its carriage, such as channel placement or other contract terms. If not resolved through business negotiation, such disagreements could result in litigation or termination of an existing agreement. Termination of an existing agreement resulting in the loss of distribution of QVC’s programming to a material portion of its television households may adversely affect its growth, net revenue and earnings.  The renewal negotiation process for affiliation agreements is typically lengthy. In some cases, renewals are not agreed upon prior to the expiration of a given agreement while the programming continues to be carried by the relevant distributor without an effective agreement in place. QVC does not have distribution agreements with some of the cable operators that carry its programming. In total, QVC is currently providing programming without affiliation agreements to distributors representing approximately 6.4% of its QVC U.S. distribution, and approximately 0.4% of its HSN distribution. Some of QVC’s international programming may continue to be carried by distributors after the expiration dates on its affiliation agreements with such distributors have passed.  QVC may be unable to obtain renewals with its current distributors on acceptable terms, if at all. QVC may also be unable to successfully negotiate affiliation agreements with new or existing distributors to carry its programming and no assurance can be given that they will be successful in negotiating renewals with these distributors or that the financial and other terms of these renewals will be acceptable. Although QVC considers its current levels of distribution without written agreement to be ordinary course, no assurance can be given that QVC will be successful in negotiating renewals with all these operators or that the financial and other terms of renewal will be on acceptable terms. The failure to successfully renew or negotiate new affiliation agreements covering a material portion of television households on acceptable terms could result in a discontinuation of carriage that may adversely affect its viewership, growth, net revenue and earnings.

   

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Our programming and online commerce businesses depend on their relationships with third party suppliers and vendors and any adverse changes in these relationships could adversely affect our results of operations. An important component of the success of our programming and online commerce businesses is their ability to maintain their existing, as well as build new, relationships with a limited number of local and foreign suppliers, manufacturers and vendors, among other parties. There can be no assurance that our subsidiaries and business affiliates will be able to maintain their existing supplier or vendor arrangements on commercially reasonable terms or at all or, with respect to goods sourced from foreign markets, if the supply costs will remain stable. In addition, our subsidiaries and business affiliates cannot guarantee that goods produced and delivered by third parties will meet applicable quality standards, which is impacted by a number of factors, some of which are not within the control of these parties. Adverse changes in existing relationships or the inability to enter into new arrangements with these parties on favorable terms, if at all, could result in lost sales or cause a failure to meet customer expectations and timely delivery of products, which could in turn have a significant adverse effect on our results of operations.

 

Our programming and online commerce businesses rely on distribution facilities to operate their business, and any damage to one of these facilities, or any disruptions caused by incorporating new facilities into their operations, could have a material adverse impact on their business. Our programming and online commerce businesses operate a limited number of distribution facilities worldwide. Their ability to meet the needs of their customers depends on the proper operation of these distribution facilities. If any of these distribution facilities were to shut down or otherwise become inoperable or inaccessible for any reason, these businesses could suffer a substantial loss of inventory and disruptions of deliveries to their customers. In addition, they could incur significantly higher costs and longer lead times associated with the distribution of their products during the time it takes to reopen or replace the damaged facility. Any of the foregoing factors could result in decreased sales and have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results. In addition, these businesses have been implementing new warehouse management systems to further support their efforts to operate with increased efficiency and flexibility. There are risks inherent in operating in new distribution environments and implementing new warehouse management systems, including operational difficulties that may arise with such transitions. Our businesses may experience shipping delays should there be any disruptions in their new warehouse management systems or warehouses themselves.

In October 2018, we announced that our HSN and QVC U.S. business units would be opening a new distribution facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 2019 and that we anticipated closing distribution facilities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Roanoke, Virginia, and Greeneville, Tennessee in 2020. Difficulties experienced in opening the Bethlehem distribution center, including delays in the installation of package handling equipment or warehouse management systems, or if the package handling equipment or warehouse management systems do not perform as anticipated, could cause delays in the Bethlehem distribution center operating at full capacity or at all.  Delays in opening the Bethlehem distribution center could cause delays in closing other facilities, including the Lancaster, Pennsylvania facility. Delays in closing these facilities or disruptions caused by transitioning order fulfillment operations from closing facilities to other facilities may increase operating expenses for these businesses, cause disruptions to their order fulfillment processes and cause delays in delivering product to customers which would result in lost sales, strain relationships with customers, and cause harm to our businesses’ reputations, any of which could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and operating results.

The unanticipated loss of certain larger vendors or the consolidation of our programming and online commerce businesses’ vendors could negatively impact their sales and profitability on a short term basis. It is possible that one or more of the larger vendors for our programming and online commerce businesses could experience financial difficulties, including bankruptcy, or otherwise could elect to cease doing business with our businesses. While these businesses have periodically experienced the loss of a major vendor, if multiple major vendors ceased doing business with these businesses, or did not perform consistently with past practice, this could have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and operating results.  Further, there has been a trend among these vendors towards consolidation in recent years that may continue.  This consolidation could exacerbate the foregoing risks and increase these vendors’ bargaining power and their ability to demand terms that are less favorable to our businesses.

 

   

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Our businesses are subject to risks of adverse government regulation. Our programming business QVC markets and provides a broad range of merchandise through television shopping programs and proprietary websites.  Similarly, our online commerce business zulily markets and provides a broad range of merchandise and/or services through its proprietary websites. As a result, our businesses are subject to a wide variety of statutes, rules, regulations, policies and procedures in various jurisdictions, including foreign jurisdictions, which are subject to change at any time, including laws regarding consumer protection, data privacy and security, the regulation of retailers generally, the license requirements for television retailers in foreign jurisdictions, the importation, sale and promotion of merchandise and the operation of retail stores and warehouse facilities, as well as laws and regulations applicable to the Internet and businesses engaged in online commerce, such as those regulating the sending of unsolicited, commercial electronic mail and texts. The failure by our businesses to comply with these laws and regulations could result in a revocation of required licenses, fines and/or proceedings by governmental agencies and/or consumers, which could adversely affect our businesses, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, unfavorable changes in the laws, rules and regulations applicable to our businesses could decrease demand for our businesses’ products and services, increase costs and/or subject our businesses to additional liabilities. Similarly, new disclosure and reporting requirements, established under existing or new state,  federal or foreign laws, such as regulatory rules regarding requirements to disclose efforts to identify the origin and existence of certain “conflict minerals” or abusive labor practices in portions of QVC’s supply chains, could increase the cost of doing business, adversely affecting our results of operations. In addition, certain of these regulations may impact the marketing efforts of our businesses and their brands.

As mentioned above, the manner in which certain of our subsidiaries and business affiliates sell and promote merchandise and related claims and representations made in connection with these efforts is regulated by federal, state and local law, as well as the laws of the foreign countries in which they operate. Certain of our subsidiaries and business affiliates may be exposed to potential liability from claims by purchasers or from regulators and law enforcement agencies, including, but not limited to, claims for personal injury, wrongful death and damage to personal property relating to merchandise sold and misrepresentation of merchandise features and benefits. In certain instances, these subsidiaries and business affiliates have the right to seek indemnification for related liabilities from their respective vendors and may require such vendors to carry minimum levels of product liability and errors and omissions insurance. These vendors, however, may be unable to satisfy indemnification claims, obtain suitable coverage or maintain this coverage on acceptable terms, or insurance may provide inadequate coverage or be unavailable with respect to a particular claim.

In addition, programming services, cable television systems, the Internet, telephony services and satellite service providers are subject to varying degrees of regulation in the U.S. by the FCC and other entities and in foreign countries by similar regulators. Such regulation and legislation are subject to the political process and have been in constant flux over the past decade. The application of various sales and use tax provisions under state, local and foreign law to the products and services of our subsidiaries and certain of our business affiliates sold via the Internet, television and telephone is subject to interpretation by the applicable taxing authorities, and no assurance can be given that such authorities will not take a contrary position to that taken by our subsidiaries and certain of our business affiliates, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses. In addition, there have been numerous attempts at the federal, state and local levels to impose additional taxes on online commerce transactions. Moreover, most foreign countries in which our subsidiaries or business affiliates have, or may in the future make, an investment, regulate, in varying degrees, the distribution, content and ownership of programming services and foreign investment in programming companies and the Internet.

In addition, certain of our businesses are subject to consent decrees issued by the FTC barring them from making deceptive claims for specified weight-loss products and dietary supplements and prohibiting them from making certain claims about specified weight-loss, dietary supplement and anti-cellulite products unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate such claims. In October 1996, HSN became subject to a consent order issued by the FTC which terminates on the later of April 15, 2019, or 20 years from the most recent date that the U.S. or the FTC files a complaint in federal court alleging any violation thereunder. Pursuant to this consent order, HSN (including its subsidiaries and affiliates) is prohibited from making claims for specified categories of products, including claims that a given product can cure, treat or prevent any disease or have an effect on the structure or function of the human body, unless it has competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate such claims. The FTC periodically investigates HSN’s business and operations on an ongoing basis for purposes of determining its compliance with the consent order. Violation of these consent decrees may result in the imposition of significant civil penalties for non-compliance and related redress to consumers and/or the issuance of an injunction enjoining these businesses from engaging in prohibited activities. Further

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material changes in the law and increased regulatory requirements must be anticipated, and there can be no assurance that our businesses and or any of our assets will not become subject to increased expenses or more stringent restrictions as a result of any future legislation, new regulation or deregulation.

   

Weak economic conditions worldwide may reduce consumer demand for our businesses’ products and services. Prolonged economic uncertainty in various regions of the world in which our subsidiaries and business affiliates operate could adversely affect demand for our businesses’ products and services since a substantial portion of our businesses’ revenue is derived from discretionary spending by individuals, which typically falls during times of economic instability. Global financial markets may experience disruptions, including increased volatility and diminished liquidity and credit availability. If economic and financial market conditions in the U.S. or other key markets, including China, Japan and Europe deteriorate, customers of our subsidiaries and business affiliates may respond by suspending, delaying, or reducing their discretionary spending. A suspension, delay or reduction in discretionary spending could adversely affect our revenue. Accordingly, our ability to increase or maintain revenue and earnings could be adversely affected to the extent that relevant economic environments decline. Such weak economic conditions may also inhibit the expansion of our subsidiaries and business affiliates into new European and other markets. We currently are unable to predict the extent of any of these potential adverse effects.

   

We may be subject to significant tax liabilities related to the GCI Liberty Split-Off.  We received an opinion of our tax counsel in connection with the contribution and split-off forming a part of the Transactions (the “GCI Liberty Split-Off”) to the effect that, for U.S. federal income tax purposes, the GCI Liberty Split-Off would qualify as a tax-free transaction to our company and to the former holders of our Liberty Ventures common stock under Section 355, Section 368(a)(1)(D) and related provisions of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”). In July 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) completed its review of the GCI Liberty Split-Off and informed our Company that it agreed with the nontaxable characterization of the Transactions. We received an Issue Resolution Agreement from the IRS documenting this conclusion. 

Even if the GCI Liberty Split-Off otherwise qualifies under Section 355, Section 368(a)(1)(D), and related provisions of the Code, the GCI Liberty Split-Off would result in a significant U.S. federal income tax liability to us (but not to the former holders of Liberty Ventures common stock) under Section 355(e) of the Code if one or more persons acquire, directly or indirectly, a 50% or greater interest (measured by either vote or value) in the stock of our company or in the stock of GCI Liberty (excluding, for this purpose, the acquisition of GCI Liberty’s common stock by us and holders of Liberty Ventures common stock pursuant to the Transactions) as part of a plan or series of related transactions that includes the GCI Liberty Split-Off.  Any acquisition of the stock of our company or GCI Liberty (or any successor corporation) within two years before or after the GCI Liberty Split-Off would generally be presumed to be part of a plan that includes the GCI Liberty Split-Off, although the parties may be able to rebut that presumption under certain circumstances. The process for determining whether an acquisition is part of a plan under these rules is complex, inherently factual in nature and subject to a comprehensive analysis of the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Notwithstanding the opinion of tax counsel described above, we or GCI Liberty might inadvertently cause or permit a prohibited change in ownership of our company or GCI Liberty, thereby triggering tax liability to us.

Prior to the GCI Liberty Split-Off, we entered into a tax sharing agreement with GCI Liberty.  Under this agreement, our company is generally responsible for any taxes and losses resulting from the failure of the GCI Liberty Split-Off to qualify as a tax-free transaction; however, GCI Liberty is required to indemnify us for any taxes and losses which (i) result primarily from, individually or in the aggregate, the breach of certain covenants made by GCI Liberty (applicable to actions or failures to act by GCI Liberty and its subsidiaries following the completion of the GCI Liberty Split-Off), or (ii) result from the application of Section 355(e) of the Code to the GCI Liberty Split-Off as a result of the treatment of the GCI Liberty Split-Off as part of a plan (or series of related transactions) pursuant to which one or more persons acquire, directly or indirectly, a 50% or greater interest (measured by either vote or value) in the stock of GCI Liberty (or any successor corporation).  As the taxpaying entity, however, we are subject to the risk of non-payment by GCI Liberty of its indemnification obligations under the tax sharing agreement.

To preserve the tax-free treatment of the GCI Liberty Split-Off, we may determine to forego certain transactions that might have otherwise been advantageous to our company, including certain asset dispositions or other strategic transactions for some period of time following the GCI Liberty Split-Off.  In addition, our potential tax liabilities related to the GCI

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Liberty Split-Off might discourage, delay or prevent a change of control transaction for some period of time following the GCI Liberty Split-Off.

Rapid technological advances could render the products and services offered by our subsidiaries and our business affiliates obsolete or non-competitive.  Our subsidiaries and business affiliates must stay abreast of rapidly evolving technological developments and offerings to remain competitive and increase the utility of their services. As their operations grow in size and scope, our subsidiaries and business affiliates must continuously improve and upgrade their systems and infrastructure while maintaining or improving the reliability and integrity of their systems and infrastructure. These subsidiaries and business affiliates must be able to incorporate new technologies into their products and services in order to address the needs of their customers. The emergence of alternative platforms such as mobile and tablet computing devices and the emergence of niche competitors who may be able to optimize products, services or strategies for such platforms will require new investment in technology. New developments in other areas, such as cloud computing, could also make it easier for competition to enter their markets due to lower up-front technology costs. There can be no assurance that our subsidiaries and business affiliates will be able to compete with advancing technology or be able to maintain existing systems or replace or introduce new technologies and systems as quickly as they would like or in a cost-effective manner, and any failure to do so could result in customers seeking alternative service providers, thereby adversely impacting our revenue and operating income.

   

Our subsidiaries and business affiliates conduct their businesses under highly competitive conditions.  Although QVC is one of the nation’s largest home shopping networks, it has numerous and varied competitors at the national and local levels, ranging from large department stores to specialty shops, electronic retailers, direct marketing retailers, wholesale clubs, discount retailers, infomercial retailers, and Internet retailers. In addition, QVC competes with other televised shopping retailers, such as EVINE Live in the U.S., Shop Channel in Japan, HSE 24 in Germany and Italy, Ideal World in the U.K., and M6 Boutique in France, infomercial retailers, Internet retailers, and mail-order and catalog companies.  QVC also competes for access to customers and audience share with other providers of televised, online and hard copy entertainment and content. Similarly, zulily and Cornerstone compete with e-commerce businesses such as Amazon.com, Inc. and Alibaba Group, the e-commerce platforms of traditional retailers such as Target Corporation and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and online marketplaces such as eBay Inc. Cornerstone also competes with other mail-order and catalog companies.  zulily expects increased competition with companies employing a flash sales model as there are no significant barriers to entry. Competition is characterized by many factors, including assortment, advertising, price, quality, service, accessibility, site functionality, reputation and credit availability, as well as the financial, technical and marketing expertise of competitors. For example, many of our businesses’ competitors have greater resources, longer histories, more customers and greater brand recognition than our businesses do, and competitors may secure better terms from vendors, adopt more aggressive pricing, offer free or subsidized shipping and devote more resources to technology, fulfillment and marketing. In addition, many retailers, especially online retailers with whom our subsidiaries and business affiliates compete, are increasingly offering customers aggressive shipping terms, including free or discounted expedited shipping.  As these practices become more prevalent, our subsidiaries and business affiliates may experience further competitive pressures to attract customers and/or to change their shipping programs. Other companies also may enter into business combinations or alliances that strengthen their competitive positions. If our subsidiaries and business affiliates do not compete effectively with regard to these factors, our results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.

   

The sales and operating results of our businesses depend on their ability to attract new customers, retain existing customers and predict or respond to consumer preferences.    In an effort to attract and retain customers, these businesses engage in various merchandising and marketing initiatives, which involve the expenditure of money and resources.  For example, QVC and Cornerstone have spent, and expect to continue to spend, increasing amounts of money on, and devote greater resources to, certain of these initiatives, particularly in connection with the growth and maintenance of their brands generally, as well as in the continuing efforts of their businesses to increasingly engage customers through digital channels. These initiatives, however, may not resonate with existing customers or consumers generally or may not be cost-effective. In addition, costs associated with the production and distribution of television programming (in the case of QVC), paper and printing costs for catalogs (in the case of Cornerstone) and costs associated with online marketing, including search engine marketing (which is a form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages through the use of paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion) (“SEM”) have increased and are likely to continue to increase in the foreseeable future and, if significant, could have a material adverse effect to the extent that they do not result in corresponding increases in net revenue. These companies

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also continuously develop new retail concepts and adjust their product mix in an effort to satisfy customer demands. Any sustained failure to identify and respond to emerging trends in lifestyle and consumer preferences could have a material adverse effect on the businesses of these subsidiaries and business affiliates. Consumer spending may be affected by many factors outside of their control, including competition from store-based retailers, mail-order and third-party Internet companies, consumer confidence and preferences, and general economic conditions.

   

The failure of our subsidiary QVC to maintain suitable placement for its programming could adversely affect its ability to attract and retain television viewers and could result in a decrease in revenue. QVC is dependent upon the continued ability of its programming to compete for viewers.  Effectively competing for television viewers is dependent, in substantial part, on its ability to negotiate and maintain placement of its programming at a favorable channel position, such as in a basic tier or within a general entertainment or general broadcasting tier. The advent of digital compression technologies and the adoption of digital cable have resulted in increased channel capacity, which together with other changing laws, rules and regulations regarding cable television ownership, impacts the ability of QVC to negotiate and maintain suitable channel placement with its distributors. Increased channel capacity could adversely affect the ability to attract television viewers to QVC’s programming to the extent it results in a less favorable channel position for its programming, such as placement adjacent to programming that does not complement its programming, a position next to its televised home shopping competitors or isolation in a "shopping" tier, more competitors entering the marketplace, or more programming options being available to the viewing public in the form of new television networks and timeshifted viewing (e.g., personal video recorders, video-on-demand, interactive television and streaming video over Internet connections). In addition, if QVC’s programming is carried exclusively by a distributor on a digital programming tier, QVC may experience a reduction in revenue to the extent that the digital programming tier has less television viewer penetration than the basic or expanded basic programming tier. QVC may experience a further reduction in revenue due to increased television viewing audience fragmentation to the extent that not all television sets within a digital cable home are equipped to receive television programming in a digital format. The future success of QVC will depend, in part, on its ability to anticipate and adapt to technological changes and to offer elements of its programming via new technologies in a cost-effective manner that meets customer demands and evolving industry standards.

   

Any continued or permanent inability of QVC to transmit its programming via satellite would result in lost revenue and could result in lost customers. The success of our subsidiary QVC is dependent upon its continued ability to transmit its programming to television providers from its satellite uplink facilities, which transmissions are subject to FCC compliance in the U.S. and foreign regulatory requirements in QVC’s international operations. In most cases, QVC has entered into long-term satellite transponder leases to provide for continued carriage of its programming on replacement transponders and/or replacement satellites, as applicable, in the event of a failure of either the transponders and/or satellites currently carrying its programming.  Although QVC believes that it takes reasonable and customary measures to ensure continued satellite transmission capability and believes that these international transponder service agreements can be renewed (or replaced, if necessary) in the ordinary course of business, termination or interruption of satellite transmissions may occur, particularly if QVC is not able to successfully negotiate renewals or replacements of any of its expiring transponder service agreements in the future. 

   

System interruption and the lack of integration and redundancy in the systems and infrastructures of our subsidiary QVC and our other online commerce and catalog businesses may adversely affect their ability to, as applicable, operate their businesses, transmit their television programs, operate websites, process and fulfill transactions, respond to customer inquiries and generally maintain cost-efficient operations. The success of our subsidiaries and business affiliates depends, in part, on their ability to maintain the integrity of their transmissions, systems and infrastructures, including the transmission of television programs (in the case of QVC), as well as their websites, information and related systems, call centers and fulfillment facilities. These subsidiaries and business affiliates may experience occasional system interruptions that make some or all transmissions, systems or data unavailable or prevent them from transmitting their signals or efficiently providing services or fulfilling orders, as the case may be. QVC is in the process of implementing new technology systems and upgrading others. The failure to properly implement new systems or delays in implementing new systems could impair the ability of our subsidiaries and business affiliates to provide services and content, fulfill orders and/or process transactions. QVC and Cornerstone also rely on affiliate and third-party computer systems, broadband, transmission and other communications systems and service providers in connection with the transmission of its respective signals, as well as to facilitate, process and fulfill transactions. Any interruptions, outages or delays in its signal transmissions, systems and infrastructures, or any deterioration in the performance of these

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transmissions, systems and infrastructures, could impair its ability to provide services, fulfill orders and/or process transactions. Fire, flood, power loss, telecommunications failure, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, acts of war or terrorism, acts of God and similar events or disruptions may damage or interrupt television transmissions, computer, broadband or other communications systems and infrastructures at any time. Any of these events could cause transmission or system interruption, delays and loss of critical data, and could prevent our subsidiaries and business affiliates from providing services, fulfilling orders and/or processing transactions. While our subsidiaries and business affiliates have backup systems for certain aspects of their operations, these systems are not fully redundant and disaster recovery planning is not sufficient for all possible risks. In addition, some of our subsidiaries and business affiliates may not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate for losses from a major interruption.

   

The processing, storage, sharing, use, disclosure and protection of personal data could give rise to liabilities as a result of governmental regulation, conflicting legal requirements or differing views of personal privacy rights. In the processing of consumer transactions and managing their employees, our businesses receive, transmit and store a large volume of personally identifiable information and other user data. The processing, storage, sharing, use, disclosure and protection of this information are governed by the privacy and data security policies maintained by these businesses. Moreover, there are federal, state and international laws regarding privacy and the processing, storage, sharing, use, disclosure and protection of personally identifiable information and user data. Specifically, personally identifiable information is increasingly subject to legislation and regulations, including changes in legislation and regulations, in numerous jurisdictions around the world, the intent of which is to protect the privacy of personal information that is collected, processed and transmitted in or from the governing jurisdiction. Compliance with these laws and regulations, or changes in these laws and regulations, may be onerous and expensive and may be inconsistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, further increasing the cost of compliance.  For example, the European Court of Justice in 2015 invalidated the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework, which facilitated personal data transfers to the U.S. in compliance with applicable European data protection laws. The E.U.-U.S. Privacy Shield, which replaced the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework, became fully operational on August 1, 2016, but is the subject of litigation. In addition, Standard Contractual Clauses - another key mechanism to allow data transfers between the U.S. and the E.U. - are also subject to litigation over whether Standard Contractual Clauses can be used for transferring personal data from the E.U. to the U.S. Further, the General Data Protection Regulation, which became effective on May 25, 2018, gives consumers in the E.U. additional rights and imposes additional restrictions and penalties on companies for illegal collection and misuse of personal information. California has enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”), which, among other things, allows California consumers to request that certain companies disclose the types of personal information collected by such companies. The CCPA will become effective on January 1, 2020. Finally, the European Commission proposed new regulations in 2017, which proposals remain pending, regarding privacy and electronic communications, including additional regulation of the Internet tracking tools known as “cookies.”  QVC’s, Cornerstone’s and zulily’s failure, and/or the failure by the various third party vendors and service providers with which QVC, Cornerstone and zulily do business, to comply with applicable privacy policies or federal, state or similar international laws and regulations, or changes in applicable laws and regulations, or any compromise of security that results in the unauthorized release of personally identifiable information or other user data could damage QVC’s, Cornerstone’s and zulily’s reputations and the reputation of their third party vendors and service providers, discourage potential users from trying their products and services and/or result in fines and/or proceedings by governmental agencies and/or consumers, any one or all of which could adversely affect QVC’s, Cornerstone’s and zulily’s business, financial condition and results of operations and, as a result, our company. In addition, we, our subsidiaries or our business affiliates may not have adequate insurance coverage to compensate for losses.

Our businesses are subject to security risks, including security breaches and identity theft. In order to succeed, our businesses must be able to provide for secure transmission of confidential information over public networks and protect their confidential information on their systems. Unauthorized parties may attempt to gain access to our businesses’ systems by, among other things, hacking into our businesses’ systems or those of our businesses’ partners or vendors, or through fraud or other means of deceiving our businesses’ employees, partners or vendors. The techniques used to gain such access to our businesses’ information technology systems, our businesses' data or customers' data, disable or degrade service, or sabotage systems are constantly evolving, may be difficult to detect quickly, and often are not recognized until launched against a target. Our businesses have implemented systems and processes intended to secure their information technology systems and prevent unauthorized access to or loss of sensitive data, but as with all companies, these security measures may not be sufficient for all eventualities and there is no guarantee that they will be adequate to safeguard against all data security breaches, system compromises or misuses of data. Any penetration of network security or other misappropriation

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or misuse of personal information could cause interruptions in the operations of our businesses and subject them to increased costs, litigation and other liabilities. Security breaches could also significantly damage their reputation with their customers and third parties with whom they do business. If our businesses’ are unable to maintain the security of their retail commerce websites and mobile commerce applications, they could suffer loss of sales, reductions in traffic, and deterioration of their competitive position and incur liability for any damage to customers whose personal information is unlawfully obtained and used. Our businesses may be required to expend significant capital and other resources to protect against and remedy any potential or existing security breaches and their consequences. They also face risks associated with security breaches affecting third parties with which they are affiliated or otherwise conduct business online. The loss of confidence in our online commerce businesses resulting from any such security breaches or identity theft could adversely affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of our online commerce businesses and, as a result, our company.

   

Certain of our subsidiaries and business affiliates may fail to adequately protect their intellectual property rights or may be accused of infringing intellectual property rights of third parties. Our subsidiaries and business affiliates regard their respective intellectual property rights, including service marks, trademarks and domain names, copyrights (including their programming and their websites), trade secrets and similar intellectual property, as critical to their success. These businesses also rely heavily upon software codes, informational databases and other components that make up their products and services. From time to time, these businesses are subject to legal proceedings and claims in the ordinary course of business, including claims of alleged infringement of the trademarks, patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights of third parties. In addition, litigation may be necessary to enforce the intellectual property rights of these businesses, protect trade secrets or to determine the validity and scope of proprietary rights claimed by others. Any litigation of this nature, regardless of outcome or merit, could result in substantial costs and diversion of management and technical resources, any of which could adversely affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of these businesses and in turn our financial condition and results of operations. The failure of these businesses to protect their intellectual property rights, particularly their proprietary brands, in a meaningful manner or third party challenges to related contractual rights could result in erosion of brand names and limit the ability of these businesses to control marketing on or through the Internet using their various domain names, which could adversely affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of these businesses, as well as the financial condition and results of operations of our company.

   

Our home television and online commerce businesses rely on independent shipping companies to deliver the products they sell. Our home television and online commerce businesses rely on third party carriers to deliver merchandise from vendors and manufacturers to them and to ship merchandise to their customers. As a result, they are subject to carrier disruptions and delays due to factors that are beyond their control, including employee strikes, inclement weather and regulation and enforcement actions by customs agencies.  Any failure to deliver products to their customers in a timely and accurate manner may damage their reputation and brand and could cause them to lose customers. Enforcement actions by customs agencies can also cause the costs of imported goods to increase, negatively affecting profits.  These businesses are also impacted by increases in shipping rates charged by third party carriers, which over the past few years have increased significantly in comparison to historical levels, and it is currently expected that shipping and postal rates will continue to increase.  In the case of deliveries to customers, in each market where they operate, they have negotiated agreements with one or more independent, third party shipping companies, which in certain circumstances provide for favorable shipping rates.  If any of these relationships were to terminate or if a shipping company was unable to fulfill its obligations under its contract for any reason, these businesses would have to work with other shipping companies to deliver merchandise to customers, which would most likely be at less favorable rates.  Other potential adverse consequences of changing carriers include reduced visibility of order status and package tracking, delays in order processing and product delivery, and reduced shipment quality, which may result in damaged products and customer dissatisfaction. Any increase in shipping rates and related fuel and other surcharges passed on to these businesses by their current carriers or any other shipping company would adversely impact profits, given that these businesses may not be able to pass these increased costs directly to customers or offset them by increasing prices without a detrimental effect on customer demand.

   

Certain of our businesses face significant inventory risk. Certain of our businesses are exposed to significant inventory risks that may adversely affect their operating results as a result of seasonality, new product launches, rapid changes in product cycles and pricing, defective merchandise, changes in consumer demand, consumer spending patterns, changes in consumer tastes with respect to their products and other factors. These businesses endeavor to accurately predict these trends and avoid overstocking or understocking products they sell. Demand for products, however, can change

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significantly between the time inventory or components are ordered and the date of sale. In addition, when these businesses begin selling a new product, it may be difficult to establish vendor relationships, determine appropriate product or component selection, and accurately forecast demand. The acquisition of certain types of inventory or components may require significant lead-time and prepayment and they may not be returnable. These businesses carry a broad selection and significant inventory levels of certain products, and they may be unable to sell products in sufficient quantities or during the relevant selling seasons. Any one of the inventory risk factors set forth above may adversely affect their operating results.

   

The seasonality of certain of our businesses places increased strain on their operations. The net revenue of our home television and online commerce businesses in recent years indicates that these businesses are seasonal due to a higher volume of sales in certain months or calendar quarters or related to particular holiday shopping. For example, in recent years, QVC has earned, on average, between 22% and 24% of its global revenue in each of the first three quarters of the year and between 30% and 32% of its global revenue in the fourth quarter of the year. Similarly, our subsidiary Cornerstone experiences higher sales volume during the second and fourth quarters of the year.  Our subsidiary zulily experiences a stronger third quarter during the back-to-school shopping season and stronger fourth quarter due to the holiday shopping season. If the vendors for these businesses are not able to provide popular products in sufficient amounts such that these businesses fail to meet customer demand, it could significantly affect their revenue and future growth. If too many customers access the websites of these businesses within a short period of time due to increased demand, our businesses may experience system interruptions that make their websites unavailable or prevent them from efficiently fulfilling orders, which may reduce the volume of goods they sell and the attractiveness of their products and services. In addition, they may be unable to adequately staff their fulfillment and customer service centers during these peak periods and delivery and other third party shipping (or carrier) companies may be unable to meet the seasonal demand. To the extent these businesses pay for holiday merchandise in advance of certain holidays (e.g., in the case of QVC, in August through November of each year), their available cash may decrease, resulting in less liquidity.

   

The failure of our subsidiaries QVC U.S., QVC International, HSN and zulily to effectively manage the Easy-Pay, Flexpay, Smart-Pay and revolving credit card programs as applicable, could result in less income. QVC U.S. and QVC International offers Easy-Pay in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Italy (known as Q-Pay in Germany and Italy), a payment plan that, when offered, allows customers to pay for certain merchandise in two or more monthly installments.  Easy-Pay is frequently offered by QVC U.S. and QVC International on the products it sells. When Easy-Pay is offered by QVC U.S. and QVC International and elected by the customer, the first installment is typically billed to the customer’s credit card upon shipment. Generally, the customer’s credit card is subsequently billed up to five additional monthly installments until the total purchase price of the products has been billed. QVC U.S. and QVC International cannot predict whether customers will pay all of their Easy-Pay installments. Accordingly, a provision for customer bad debts is provided as a percentage of accounts receivable based on historical experience and is included within selling, general and administrative expense (see note 2 to our accompanying consolidated financial statements). To the extent that Easy-Pay losses exceed historical levels, QVC’s results of operations may be negatively impacted.

   

HSN offers Flexpay, a program which customers may pay for certain merchandise in two to six interest-free, monthly credit or debit card installments. Flexpay is frequently offered by HSN on the products it sells. HSN maintains allowances for estimated losses resulting from the inability of customers to make required payments. Actual losses due to the inability of customers to make required payments may increase in a given period or exceed related estimates. As Flexpay usage continues to grow, HSN may experience these losses at greater rates, which will require it to maintain greater allowances for doubtful accounts of estimated losses than it has historically. To the extent that Flexpay losses exceed historical levels, HSN’s results of operations may be negatively impacted.

 

zulily offers Smart-pay, a program which customers may pay for certain merchandise in two or three payments. zulily maintains allowances for estimated losses resulting from the inability of customers to make required payments. Actual losses due to the inability of customers to make required payments may increase in a given period or exceed related estimates. zulily may experience these losses at greater rates, which will require it to maintain greater allowances for doubtful accounts of estimated losses than it has historically.

 

In addition, QVC U.S., HSN and zulily have an agreement with a large consumer financial institution (the “Bank”) pursuant to which the Bank provides revolving credit directly to U.S. customers for the sole purpose of purchasing

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merchandise from QVC U.S., HSN and zulily with a branded credit card (For QVC U.S. the “Q Card”, for HSN the “HSN Credit Card” and for zulily the “zulily Credit Card”). QVC U.S., HSN and zulily receive a portion of the net economics of the respective credit card programs. We cannot predict the extent to which QVC U.S., HSN and zulily’s customers will use the Q Card, the HSN Credit Card, or the zulily Credit Card nor the extent that they will make payments on their outstanding balances.

 

The success of our home television and online commerce businesses depends in large part on their ability to recruit and retain key personnel capable of executing their unique business models.  Our home television and online commerce subsidiaries and business affiliates have business models that require them to recruit and retain key employees, including management, with the skills necessary for a unique business that demands knowledge of the general retail industry, television production, direct to consumer marketing and fulfillment and the Internet.  We cannot assure you that if these subsidiaries and business affiliates experience turnover of these key employees they will be able to recruit and retain acceptable replacements because the market for such employees is very competitive and limited.

Certain of our subsidiaries and business affiliates have operations outside of the U.S. that are subject to numerous operational and financial risks. Certain of our subsidiaries and business affiliates have operations in countries other than the U.S. that are subject to the following risks inherent in international operations:

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fluctuations in currency exchange rates;

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longer payment cycles for sales in foreign countries that may increase the uncertainty associated with recoverable accounts;

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recessionary conditions and economic instability, including fiscal policies that are implementing austerity measures in certain countries, which are affecting overseas markets;

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limited ability to repatriate funds to the U.S. at favorable tax rates;

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potentially adverse tax consequences;

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export and import restrictions, changes in tariffs, trade policies and trade relations;

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increases in taxes and governmental royalties and fees;

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the ability to obtain and maintain required licenses or certifications, such as for web services and electronic devices, that enable us to operate our businesses in foreign jurisdictions;

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changes in foreign and U.S. laws, regulations and policies that govern operations of foreign-based companies;

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changes to general consumer protection laws and regulations;

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difficulties in staffing and managing international operations as a result of distance, language and cultural differences; and

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threatened and actual terrorist attacks, political unrest in international markets and ongoing military action around the world that may result in disruptions of service that are critical to QVC’s international businesses.

Moreover, in many foreign countries, particularly in certain developing economies, it is not uncommon to encounter business practices that are prohibited by certain regulations, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and similar laws. Although certain of our subsidiaries and business affiliates have undertaken compliance efforts with respect to these laws, their respective employees, contractors and agents, as well as those companies to which they outsource certain of their business operations, may take actions in violation of their policies and procedures. Any such violation, even if prohibited by the policies and procedures of these subsidiaries and business affiliates or the law, could have certain adverse effects on the financial condition of these subsidiaries and business affiliates. Any failure by these subsidiaries and business affiliates to effectively manage the challenges associated with the international operation of their businesses could materially adversely affect their, and hence our, financial condition.

   

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Significant developments stemming from the 2016 U.S. presidential election or the Brexit vote could have a material adverse effect on our businesses. After the presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017, President Donald J. Trump and his administration took office in the U.S. As a presidential candidate, President Trump expressed apprehension towards trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and suggested that the U.S. would renegotiate or withdraw from certain trade agreements. He has also advocated for and imposed tariffs on certain goods imported into the U.S., particularly from China. On January 23, 2017, the President of the U.S. signed a presidential memorandum to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. On November 30, 2018, the U.S., Mexico and Canada signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which will impact imports and exports among those countries. These and other proposed actions, if implemented, could adversely affect our businesses that sell imported products.

Additionally, the Brexit process and negotiations have created political and economic uncertainty, particularly in the U.K. and the E.U., and this uncertainty may last for years. Failing the implementation of an agreed extension, the U.K. is scheduled to withdraw from the E.U. on March 29, 2019. The U.K. government’s draft agreement on the withdrawal of the U.K. from the E.U. was defeated in the House of Commons on January 15, 2019. As a result, the final terms of the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. are, and will remain for the immediate future, unclear. The U.K. may leave the E.U. without any agreement as to the terms of its withdrawal or the future economic relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. It is also possible that the U.K. will withdraw its notification to leave the E.U. or that there will be a second referendum on Brexit. The potential impacts, if any, of the considerable uncertainty relating to Brexit or the resulting terms of Brexit on the free movement of goods, services, people and capital between the U.K. and the E.U., customer behavior, economic conditions, interest rates, currency exchange rates, availability of capital or other matters are unclear. QVC’s business could be affected with respect to these matters during this period of uncertainty, and perhaps longer depending on the resulting terms. In particular, QVC’s business could be negatively affected by new trade agreements between the U.K. and other countries, including the U.S., and by the possible imposition of trade or other regulatory barriers in the U.K. which could result in shipping delays and the shortage of products sold by our business.  Additionally, the U.K. economy and consumer demand in the U.K., including for the Company’s products, could be negatively impacted.  Further, various geopolitical forces related to Brexit may impact the global economy, the European economy and the Company’s business, including, for example, due to other E.U. member states where we have operations proposing referendums to, or electing to, exit the E.U. These possible negative impacts, and others resulting from the U.K.’s withdrawal from the E.U., may adversely affect QVC’s operating results.

   

Our businesses could be negatively affected by changes in search engine algorithms and dynamics or search engine disintermediation as well as their inability to monetize the resulting web traffic. The success of our online commerce businesses depends on a high degree of website traffic, which is dependent on many factors, including the availability of appealing website content, user loyalty and new user generation from search portals that charge a fee (such as Google).  In obtaining a significant amount of website traffic via search engines, they utilize techniques such as search engine optimization (“SEO”) which is the practice of developing websites with relevant and current content that rank well in “organic,” or unpaid, search engine results) and SEM to improve their placement in relevant search queries. Search engines, including Google, frequently update and change the logic that determines the placement and display of results of a user’s search, such that the purchased or algorithmic placement of links to the websites of our online commerce businesses can be negatively affected. Moreover, a search engine could, for competitive or other purposes, alter its search algorithms or results causing their websites to place lower in search query results. If a major search engine changes its algorithms in a manner that negatively affects their paid or unpaid search ranking, or if competitive dynamics impact the effectiveness of SEO or SEM in a negative manner, the business and financial performance of our online commerce businesses would be adversely affected, potentially to a material extent. Furthermore, the failure of our online commerce businesses to successfully manage their SEO and SEM strategies could result in a substantial decrease in traffic to their websites, as well as increased costs if they were to replace free traffic with paid traffic.  Even if our online commerce businesses are successful in generating a high level of website traffic, no assurance can be given that our online commerce businesses will be successful in achieving repeat user loyalty or that new visitors will explore the offerings on their sites. Monetizing this traffic by converting users to consumers is dependent on many factors, including availability of inventory, consumer preferences, price, ease of use and website quality.  No assurance can be given that the fees paid to search portals will not exceed the revenue generated by their visitors.  Any failure to sustain user traffic or to monetize such traffic could materially adversely affect the financial performance of our online commerce businesses and, as a result, adversely affect our financial results.

   

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Our businesses may experience difficulty in achieving the successful development, implementation and customer acceptance of applications for smartphone and tablet computing devices, which could harm their business. Although our online commerce businesses have developed services and applications to address user and consumer interaction with website content on smartphone and other non-traditional desktop or laptop computer systems (which typically have smaller screens and less convenient typing capabilities), the efficacy of the smartphone application and its advertising market is still developing. Moreover, if smartphone computing services prove to be less effective for the users of our online commerce businesses or less economically attractive for advertisers and the smartphone segment of Internet traffic grows at the expense of traditional computer and tablet Internet access, our online commerce businesses may experience difficulty attracting and retaining traffic and, in turn, advertisers, on these platforms. Additionally, as new devices and new platforms are continually being released, it is difficult to predict the challenges that may be encountered in developing versions of our online commerce businesses’ offerings for use on these alternative devices, and our online commerce businesses may need to devote significant resources to the creation, support, and maintenance of their services on such devices. To the extent that revenue generated from advertising placed on smartphone computing devices becomes increasingly more important to their businesses and they fail to adequately evolve and address this market, their business and financial performance could be negatively impacted.

   

Our subsidiary QVC has significant indebtedness, which could limit its flexibility to respond to current market conditions, restrict its business activities and adversely affect its financial condition.   As of December 31, 2018, QVC had total debt of approximately $5,148 million, consisting of $3,775 million in senior secured notes, $1,185 million under its senior secured credit facility and $188 million of capital and build to suit lease obligations. QVC also had $2.3 billion available for borrowing under its senior secured credit facility as of that date. QVC may incur significant additional indebtedness in the future. The indebtedness of QVC, combined with other financial obligations and contractual commitments, could among other things:

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increase QVC’s vulnerability to general adverse economic and industry conditions;

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require a substantial portion of QVC’s cash flow from operations to be dedicated to the payment of principal and interest on its indebtedness;

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limit QVC’s ability to use cash flow or obtain additional financing for future working capital, capital expenditures or other general corporate purposes, which reduces the funds available to it for operations and any future business opportunities;

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limit flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in its business and the markets in which it operates;

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competitively disadvantage QVC compared with competitors that have less debt;

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limit QVC’s ability to borrow additional funds or to borrow funds at rates or on other terms that it finds acceptable; and

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expose QVC to the risk of increased interest rates because certain of QVC’s borrowings, including borrowings under its credit facility, are at variable interest rates.

In addition, it is possible that QVC may need to incur additional indebtedness in the future in the ordinary course of business. If new debt is added to its current debt levels, the risks described above could intensify. If QVC experiences adverse effects on its financial condition as a result of their indebtedness, our financial performance could be adversely affected as well.

QVC may need to refinance its indebtedness. Although QVC expects to refinance or otherwise repay its indebtedness, it may not be able to refinance its indebtedness on terms acceptable to it or at all. The financial terms or covenants of any new credit facility, notes or other indebtedness may not be as favorable as those under its senior secured credit facility and its existing notes. QVC’s ability to complete a refinancing of its senior secured credit facility and its existing notes prior to their respective maturities will depend on its financial and operating performance, as well as a number of conditions beyond its control. For example, if disruptions in the financial markets were to exist at the time that it intended to refinance this indebtedness, it might be restricted in its ability to access the financial markets. If QVC is unable to refinance its indebtedness, its alternatives would include negotiating an extension of the maturities of its senior secured credit facility and its existing notes with the lenders and seeking or raising new equity capital. If QVC were

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unsuccessful, the lenders under its senior secured credit facility and the holders of its existing notes could demand repayment of the indebtedness owed to them on the relevant maturity date, which could adversely affect its and our financial condition.

Covenants in QVC’s debt agreements restrict its business in many ways. QVC’s senior secured credit facility and the indentures governing its notes contain various covenants that limit its ability and/or its restricted subsidiaries' ability to, among other things:

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incur or assume liens or additional debt or provide guarantees in respect of obligations of other persons;

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pay dividends or make distributions or redeem or repurchase capital stock;

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prepay, redeem or repurchase debt;

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make loans, investments and capital expenditures;

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enter into agreements that restrict distributions from its subsidiaries;

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sell assets and capital stock of its subsidiaries;

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enter into sale and leaseback transactions;

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enter into certain transactions with affiliates;

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consolidate or merge with or into, or sell substantially all of its assets to, another person; and

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designate its subsidiaries as unrestricted subsidiaries.

In addition, QVC’s senior secured credit facility contains restrictive covenants and requires it to maintain a specified leverage ratio. QVC’s ability to meet this leverage ratio test can be affected by events beyond its control, and it may be unable to meet those tests. A breach of any of these covenants could result in a default under QVC’s senior secured credit facility, which in turn could result in a default under the indentures governing its notes. Upon the occurrence of an event of default under QVC’s senior secured credit facility, the lenders could elect to declare all amounts outstanding under its senior secured credit facility to be immediately due and payable and terminate all commitments to extend further credit. If QVC were unable to repay those amounts, the lenders could proceed against the collateral granted to them to secure that indebtedness. QVC’s senior secured credit facility, its notes and certain future indebtedness are secured by a first priority perfected lien in all shares of its capital stock. If the lenders and counterparties under QVC’s senior secured credit facility, its notes and certain future indebtedness accelerate the repayment of obligations, it may not have sufficient assets to repay such obligations. QVC’s borrowings under its senior secured credit facility are, and are expected to continue to be, at variable rates of interest and expose it to interest rate risk. If interest rates increase, QVC’s debt service obligations on the variable rate indebtedness will also increase even though the amount borrowed remains the same, and QVC’s net income would decrease.

We may fail to realize the potential benefits of the acquisition of HSN or those benefits may take longer to realize than expected.    We believe there are significant benefits and synergies that may be realized through leveraging the scale, vendor relationships, merchandizing expertise and customer base of QVC U.S. and HSN. However, the efforts to realize these benefits and synergies will be a complex process and may disrupt each company’s existing operations if not implemented in a timely and efficient manner. If the respective managements of Qurate Retail, QVC U.S. and HSN are unable to minimize the potential disruption to their respective businesses and operations during this period, we may not realize the anticipated benefits of the acquisition of HSN. Realizing these benefits may depend in part on the efficient coordination and alignment of various functions, including marketing, merchandising, buying expertise, customer acquisition and the integration of certain administrative functions, while maintaining adequate focus on QVC U.S.’s and HSN’s core businesses. QVC U.S., HSN and zulily engage in transactions relating to personnel, sales, sourcing of

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merchandise, marketing initiatives, fulfillment integration, business advisory services, and software development with the expectation that these transactions will result in various synergies including, among other things, enhanced revenues, procurement cost savings and operating efficiencies, innovation and sharing of best practices. However, they may not realize these anticipated benefits. We currently anticipate that these efforts will continue for the foreseeable future.

   

Our operating expenses are expected to increase over the near term due to the increased headcount, expanded operations and changes related to the assimilation of HSN. In addition, we have incurred expenses related to the acquisition of HSN, which may adversely affect our financial results. To the extent that our expenses increase but revenue does not increase commensurately, there are unanticipated expenses related to the assimilation process, there are significant costs associated with presently unknown liabilities, or if the foregoing charges and expenses are larger than anticipated, our consolidated business, operating results and financial condition may be adversely affected. Failure to timely implement, or problems with implementing, the post-acquisition strategy for HSN also may adversely affect the trading price of our common stock.

   

We depend on the continued growth of e-commerce in general and zulily depends on the flash sales model in particular. The business of selling products over the Internet, particularly on the flash sales model, is dynamic and evolving. The market segment for the flash sales model has grown significantly, and this growth may not be sustainable. If customers cease to find the flash sales model shopping experience fun, entertaining and a good value, or otherwise lose interest in shopping in this manner, zulily may not acquire new customers at rates consistent with its historical or projected periods, and existing customers’ buying patterns and levels may be less than historical or projected rates. If zulily is unable to successfully deliver emails or mobile alerts to its subscribers, or if subscribers decline to open its emails or mobile alerts, zulily’s net sales and profitability would be adversely affected. In addition, changes in how webmail application providers, such as Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc., prioritize, filter and deliver email may also reduce the number of subscribers opening zulily’s emails which may also result in a decline in net sales. If the market segment for the flash sales model were to become saturated or decline overall, zulily may not be able to acquire new customers or engage existing customers, which could adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.

   

We do not have the right to manage our business affiliates, which means we are not able to cause those business affiliates to act in a manner that we deem desirable.  We do not have the right to manage the businesses or affairs of any of our business affiliates (generally those companies in which we have less than a majority voting stake). Rather, our rights may take the form of representation on the board of directors or similar committee that supervises management or possession of veto rights over significant or extraordinary actions. The scope of our veto rights varies from agreement to agreement. Although our board representation and veto rights may enable us to exercise influence over the management or policies of a business affiliate, enable us to prevent the sale of material assets by a business affiliate in which we own less than a majority voting interest or prevent a business affiliate from paying dividends or making distributions to its stockholders or partners, they will not enable us to cause these actions to be taken as these companies are business affiliates in which we own a partial interest.

We have overlapping directors and officers with Liberty Media Corporation (“LMC”), Liberty TripAdvisor Holdings, Inc. (“TripAdvisor Holdings”), Liberty Broadband, Liberty Expedia Holdings, Inc. (“Expedia Holdings”), and GCI Liberty, which may lead to conflicting interests. As a result of certain transactions that occurred between 2011 and 2018 that resulted in the separate corporate existence of our company, LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings and GCI Liberty, most of the executive officers of Qurate Retail also serve as executive officers of LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings and GCI Liberty and there are overlapping directors. Other than GCI Libertys current ownership of shares of Liberty Broadbands non-voting Series C common stock, none of the foregoing companies has any ownership interest in any of the others. Our executive officers and the members of our companys board of directors have fiduciary duties to our stockholders. Likewise, any such persons who serve in similar capacities at LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings or GCI Liberty have fiduciary duties to that companys stockholders. Therefore, such persons may have conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest with respect to matters involving or affecting more than one of the companies to which they owe fiduciary duties. For example, there may be the potential for a conflict of interest when our company, LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings or GCI Liberty looks at acquisitions and other corporate opportunities that may be suitable for each of them. Moreover, most of our company's directors and officers own LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings and/or GCI Liberty stock and equity awards. These ownership interests

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could create, or appear to create, potential conflicts of interest when the applicable individuals are faced with decisions that could have different implications for our company, LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings and/or GCI Liberty. Any potential conflict that qualifies as a "related party transaction" (as defined in Item 404 of Regulation S-K under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended) is subject to review by an independent committee of the applicable issuer's board of directors in accordance with its corporate governance guidelines. Each of Liberty Broadband, TripAdvisor Holdings, Expedia Holdings and GCI Liberty has renounced its rights to certain business opportunities and their respective restated certificate of incorporation contains provisions deeming directors and officers not in breach of their fiduciary duties in certain cases for directing a corporate opportunity to another person or entity (including LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings and GCI Liberty) instead of such company. Any other potential conflicts that arise will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind the applicable fiduciary duties owed by the executive officers and directors of each issuer. From time to time, we may enter into transactions with LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings or GCI Liberty and/or their subsidiaries or other affiliates. There can be no assurance that the terms of any such transactions will be as favorable to our company, LMC, TripAdvisor Holdings, Liberty Broadband, Expedia Holdings or GCI Liberty or any of their respective subsidiaries or affiliates as would be the case where there is no overlapping officer or director.

A substantial portion of our consolidated debt is held above the operating subsidiary level, and we could be unable in the future to obtain cash in amounts sufficient to service that debt and our other financial obligations.  As of December 31, 2018, our wholly-owned subsidiary LI  LLC had $2,308 million principal amount of publicly-traded debt outstanding. LI LLC is a holding company for all of our subsidiaries and investments. Our ability to meet the financial obligations of LI LLC and our other financial obligations will depend on our ability to access cash. Our sources of cash include our available cash balances, net cash from operating activities, dividends and interest from our investments, availability under credit facilities at the operating subsidiary level, monetization of our public investment portfolio and proceeds from asset sales. There are no assurances that we will maintain the amounts of cash, cash equivalents or marketable securities that we maintained over the past few years. The ability of our operating subsidiaries to pay dividends or to make other payments or advances to us or LI LLC depends on their individual operating results, any statutory, regulatory or contractual restrictions to which they may be or may become subject and the terms of their own indebtedness, including QVC’s credit facility and bond indentures. The agreements governing such indebtedness restrict sales of assets and prohibit or limit the payment of dividends or the making of distributions, loans or advances to stockholders and partners. Neither we nor LI LLC will generally receive cash, in the form of dividends, loans, advances or otherwise, from our business affiliates. See “We do not have the right to manage our business affiliates, which means we are not able to cause those affiliates to act in a manner that we deem desirable” above.

We have disposed of certain of the reference shares underlying the exchangeable debentures of LI LLC, which exposes us to liquidity risk.  LI LLC currently has outstanding multiple tranches of exchangeable debentures in the aggregate principal amount of $1,517 million as of December 31, 2018. Under the terms of these exchangeable debentures, the holders may elect to require LI LLC to exchange the debentures for the value of a specified number of the underlying reference shares, which LI LLC may honor through delivery of reference shares, cash or a combination thereof. Also, LI LLC is required to distribute to the holders of its exchangeable debentures any cash, securities (other than publicly traded securities, which would themselves become reference shares) or other payments made by the issuer of the reference shares in respect of those shares. The principal amount of the debentures will be reduced by the amount of any such required distributions other than regular cash dividends.  LI LLC has disposed of some of the reference shares underlying certain of these exchangeable debentures. For example, in connection with the Transactions, our company contributed its entire equity interest in Charter Communications, Inc. to GCI Liberty. Shares of Charter serve as the underlying reference shares for the 1.75% Exchangeable Debentures. Pursuant to a reorganization agreement and indemnification agreement entered into in connection with the Transactions, our company, LI LLC and GCI Liberty agreed to cooperate with, and reasonably assist each other with respect to, the commencement and consummation of one or more privately negotiated transactions with respect to the 1.75% Exchangeable Debentures within six months of the closing of the Transactions. In June 2018, Qurate Retail repurchased 417,759 of the 1.75% Exchangeable Debentures, and GCI Liberty made a payment under the indemnification agreement to Qurate Retail in the amount of $133 million. Following the initial six month period, the remaining indemnification from GCI Liberty to LI LLC for certain payments made to a holder of the 1.75% Exchangeable Debentures pertains to the holder’s ability to exercise its exchange right according to the terms of the 1.75% Exchangeable Debentures on or before October 5, 2023. However, we cannot give any assurance as to whether GCI Liberty will fulfill its indemnification obligations pursuant to the indemnification agreement.

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As a result of LI LLC having disposed of these reference shares, any exercise of the exchange right by, or required distribution of cash, securities or other payments to, holders of such debentures will require that LI LLC fund the required payments from its own resources, which will depend on the availability of cash or other sources of liquidity to LI LLC at that time. Additionally, in the event all reference shares underlying a series of exchangeable debentures are liquidated or otherwise cease to be outstanding without replacement, there is a possibility that the treatment of tax matters associated with that series could change. This may include acceleration of tax liabilities that are recorded as deferred tax liabilities in our financial statements, in amounts that would be significant.

Transactions in our common stock by our insiders could depress the market price of our common stock.  Sales of or hedging transactions such as collars relating to our shares by John C. Malone, a director of our company and our former Chairman of the Board, Gregory B. Maffei, our former Chief Executive Officer and current Chairman of the Board, or Michael George, our current Chief Executive Officer, or any of our other directors or executive officers could cause a perception in the marketplace that our stock price has peaked or that adverse events or trends have occurred or may be occurring at our company. This perception can result notwithstanding any personal financial motivation for these insider transactions. As a result, insider transactions could depress the market price for shares of one or more series of our common stock.

It may be difficult for a third party to acquire us, even if doing so may be beneficial to our stockholders.  Certain provisions of our restated charter and bylaws may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company that a stockholder may consider favorable. These provisions include:

·

authorizing a capital structure with multiple series of common stock, a Series B common stock of each group that entitles the holders to ten votes per share, a Series A common stock of each group that entitles the holder to one vote per share, and a Series C common stock of each group that except as otherwise required by applicable law, entitles the holder to no voting rights;

·

classifying our board of directors with staggered three-year terms, which may lengthen the time required to gain control of our board of directors;

·

limiting who may call special meetings of stockholders;

·

prohibiting stockholder action by written consent, thereby requiring all stockholder actions to be taken at a meeting of the stockholders;

·

establishing advance notice requirements for nominations of candidates for election to the board of directors or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by stockholders at stockholder meetings;

·

requiring stockholder approval by holders of at least 66 2/3% of our aggregate voting power or the approval by at least 75% of our board of directors with respect to certain extraordinary matters, such as a merger or consolidation of our company, a sale of all or substantially all of our assets or an amendment to our restated charter; and

·

the existence of authorized and unissued stock, including "blank check" preferred stock, which could be issued by our board of directors to persons friendly to our then current management, thereby protecting the continuity of our management, or which could be used to dilute the stock ownership of persons seeking to obtain control of our company.

John C. Malone, a director of our company and our former Chairman of the Board, beneficially owns shares representing the power to direct approximately 40% of the aggregate voting power in our company, due to his beneficial ownership of approximately 95% of the outstanding shares of our Series B Qurate Retail common stock as of January 31, 2019.

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We have identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting, that, if not properly remediated, could adversely affect our business and results of operations.  material weakness is a deficiency, or a combination of deficiencies, in internal control over financial reporting such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the Company’s annual or interim consolidated financial statements will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis. As described in “Item 9A. Controls and Procedures,” we have concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was ineffective as of December 31, 2018 due to material weaknesses. The identified material weaknesses, at December 31, 2018, relate to information technology general controls (“ITGCs”) as well as certain business process controls designed to compensate for UK revenue system ITGC failures. Specifically, the ITGCs were not designed and operating effectively to ensure (i) that access to applications and data, and the ability to make program and job changes, were adequately restricted to appropriate personnel and (ii) that the activities of individuals with access to modify data and make program and job changes were appropriately monitored. Our business process controls (automated and manual) that are dependent on the affected ITGCs were also deemed ineffective because they could have been adversely impacted. Further, review controls intended to ensure revenue is appropriately recorded in the UK were not deemed effective.

While the control deficiencies did not result in any identified misstatements, a reasonable possibility exists that a material misstatement to the annual or interim consolidated financial statements and disclosures will not be prevented or detected on a timely basis.

As further described in “Item 9A. Controls and Procedures,” we are taking the necessary steps to remediate the material weaknesses. However, as the reliability of the internal control process requires repeatable execution, the successful on-going remediation of these material weaknesses will require on-going review and evidence of effectiveness prior to concluding that the controls are effective. Therefore, we cannot assure you that the remediation efforts will remain effective following their completion in the future or that additional or similar material weaknesses will not develop or be identified.

Implementing any further changes to our internal controls may distract its officers and employees and entail material costs to implement new processes and/or modify its existing processes. Moreover, these changes do not guarantee that we will be effective in maintaining the adequacy of our internal controls, and any failure to maintain that adequacy, or consequent inability to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis, could harm our business. In addition, investors’ perceptions that our internal controls are inadequate or that we are unable to produce accurate financial statements on a timely basis may harm the price of our common stock.

 

Item 1B.  Unresolved Staff Comments

None.

Item 2.  Properties.

We lease our corporate headquarters in Englewood, Colorado under a facilities agreement with LMC.  All of our other real or personal property is owned or leased by our subsidiaries and business affiliates.

QVC U.S. owns its corporate headquarters and operations center in West Chester, Pennsylvania, which consist of office space and include executive offices, video broadcast studios, showrooms, broadcast facilities and administrative offices. QVC U.S. and QVC International also own call centers in San Antonio, Texas; Chesapeake, Virginia; Bochum and Kassel, Germany; and Chiba-Shi, Japan. QVC U.S. and QVC International own distribution centers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Suffolk, Virginia; Rocky Mount, North Carolina; Florence, South Carolina; Ontario, California; Chiba, Japan; and Hücklehoven, Germany.  Additionally, QVC International owns multi-functional buildings in Knowsley, United Kingdom, Chiba, Japan and Brugherio, Italy. In Germany, QVC International owns its administrative offices within the headquarters located in Düsseldorf, Germany which also includes leased video broadcast studios and facilities. To supplement the facilities it owns, it also leases various facilities worldwide.

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zulily leases its corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington, fulfillment centers in Lockbourne, Ohio, McCarran, Nevada, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and corporate offices in Gahanna, Ohio, Shenzhen, China and Bellevue, Washington. 

HSN owns a corporate headquarters, call center, and operations center in St. Petersburg, Florida along with a distribution center in Piney Flats, Tennessee. Additionally, HSN leases distribution centers in Bristol, Virginia; Fontana, California; Greenville, Tennessee; Morristown, Tennessee; and Roanoke, Virginia. Office space is leased in Ronkonkoma, New York; New York, New York; St. Petersburg, Florida; and Maple Heights, Ohio.

Cornerstone owns an office and storage facility in Franconia, New Hampshire. Cornerstone leases its fulfillment centers in Butler and Warren Counties in Ohio and Phoenix, Arizona. It also leases other properties consisting of administrative offices, 20 retail stores and outlets, and photo centers in various locations throughout the United States.

Our other subsidiaries and business affiliates own or lease the fixed assets necessary for the operation of their respective businesses, including office space, transponder space, headends, cable television and telecommunications distribution equipment and telecommunications switches.

Item 3. Legal Proceedings

None. 

Item 4.  Mine Safety Disclosures

Not applicable.

 

 

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PART II

Item 5.  Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.

Market Information

Each series of the common stock of Qurate Retail, Inc. (formerly named Liberty Interactive Corporation, “Qurate Retail,” the “Company,” “we,” “us” and “our”) trades on the Nasdaq Global Select Market.  Our Series A and Series B QVC Group common stock traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbols “QVCA” and “QVCB,” respectively. On May 23, 2018, the Company filed its restated certificate of incorporation, which (i) eliminated the tracking stock capitalization structure of the Company and (ii) reclassified each outstanding share of our Series A and Series B QVC Group common stock into one share of our Series A and Series B common stock, respectively.  Following the reclassification, our Series A and Series B common stock continued trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, but under the symbols “QRTEA” and “QRTEB.”  Stock price information for securities traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market can be found on the Nasdaq’s website at www.nasdaq.com. Although the reclassification resulted in stock name and related ticker symbol changes, historical information for our Series B QVC Group common stock refers to such stock herein as our Series B common stock.  The following table sets forth the range of high and low sales prices of shares of our Series B common stock for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017.   Although our Series B common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, an established public trading market does not exist for the stock, as it is not actively traded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qurate Retail

 

 

 

 

Series B (QRTEB)

 

 

 

 

High

 

Low

 

2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

First quarter

 

$

22.05

 

17.62

  

Second quarter

 

$

24.93

 

19.40

 

Third quarter

 

$

25.10

 

21.14

 

Fourth quarter

 

$

26.79

 

20.93

 

2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

First quarter

 

$

28.90

 

24.49

 

Second quarter

 

$

25.46

 

20.32

 

Third quarter

 

$

23.09

 

19.62

 

Fourth quarter

 

$

24.24

 

18.47

 

 

Holders

As of January 31, 2019, there were 2,685 and 77 record holders of our Series A and Series B Qurate Retail common stock, respectively. The foregoing numbers of record holders do not include the number of stockholders whose shares are held nominally by banks, brokerage houses or other institutions, but include each such institution as one shareholder.

Dividends

We have not paid any cash dividends on our common stock, and we have no present intention of so doing.  Payment of cash dividends, if any, in the future will be determined by our board of directors in light of our earnings, financial condition and other relevant considerations. See Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation – Liquidity and Capital Resources.”

Securities Authorized for Issuance Under Equity Compensation Plans

Information required by this item is incorporated by reference to our definitive proxy statement for our 2019 Annual Meeting of Stockholders that will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on or before April 30, 2019.

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Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer

Share Repurchase Programs

On several occasions our board of directors has authorized a share repurchase program for our Series A and Series B QVC Group common stock. On each of May 5, 2006, November 3, 2006 and October 30, 2007 our board authorized the repurchase of $1 billion of Series A and Series B Liberty Interactive common stock for a total of $3 billion. These previous authorizations remained effective following the LMC Split-Off, notwithstanding the fact that the Qurate Retail common stock ceased to be a tracking stock during the period following the LMC Split-Off and prior to the creation of our Liberty Ventures common stock in August 2012.  On February 22, 2012 the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $700 million of Series A and Series B Qurate Retail common stock.  Additionally, on each of October 30, 2012 and February 27, 2014, the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $1 billion of Series A and Series B Qurate Retail common stock.  In connection with the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off during August 2014, the board authorized $350 million for the repurchase of either the Qurate Retail or Liberty Ventures tracking stocks. In October 2014, the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $650 million of Series A and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock. In August 2015, the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $1 billion of Series A or Series B QVC Group common stock. In addition, on October 26, 2016, the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $300 million of either the QVC Group common stock or the Liberty Ventures common stock. On September 19, 2017, the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $1 billion of Series A QVC Group common stock. In March 2018, the board authorized the repurchase of an additional $693 million of Series A QVC Group common stock. Previous authorizations with respect to QVC Group common stock remain effective and now apply to Qurate Retail common stock.

A summary of the repurchase activity for the three months ended December 31, 2018 is as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series A Qurate Retail Common Stock (QRTEA)

 

    

                                         

 

 

 

                           

 

    

                         

 

                                               

 

Maximum Number

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(or Approximate Dollar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Total Number of

 

Value) of Shares that

 

 

 

Total Number

 

 Average

 

Shares Purchased as Part

 

May Yet Be purchased

 

 

 

of Shares

 

Price Paid per

 

of Publicly Announced

 

Under the Plans or

 

Period

    

Purchased

    

Share

    

Plans or Programs

    

Programs

 

October 1 - 31, 2018

 

6,228,812

 

$

21.70

 

6,228,812

 

$

620

million

November 1 - 30, 2018

 

4,890,275

 

$

22.82

 

4,890,275

 

$

508

million

December 1 - 31, 2018

 

5,800,744

 

$

20.51

 

5,800,744

 

$

389

million

Total

 

16,919,831

 

 

 

 

16,919,831

 

 

 

 

3,220 shares of Series A Qurate Retail common stock were surrendered by certain of our officers and employees to pay withholding taxes and other deductions in connection with the vesting of their restricted stock during the three months ended December 31, 2018.

 

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Item 6.  Selected Financial Data.

The following tables present selected historical information relating to our financial condition and results of operations for the past five years.  Certain prior period amounts have been reclassified for comparability with the current year presentation. The following data should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

 

    

2018

    

2017

    

2016

    

2015

    

2014

 

 

 

amounts in millions

 

Summary Balance Sheet Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash equivalents

 

$

653

 

903

 

825

 

2,449

 

2,306

 

Investments in available-for-sale securities and other cost investments

 

$

96

 

2,363

 

1,922

 

1,353

 

1,224

 

Intangible assets not subject to amortization (1)

 

$

10,912

 

11,011

 

9,354

 

9,485

 

7,893

 

Noncurrent assets of discontinued operations (2) (3) (4)

 

$

 —

 

3,635

 

3,161

 

927

 

514

 

Total assets

 

$

17,841

 

24,122

 

20,355

 

21,180

 

18,598

 

Long-term debt

 

$

5,963

 

7,553

 

7,166

 

7,481

 

7,062

 

Deferred income tax liabilities

 

$

1,925

 

2,500

 

3,354

 

3,217

 

2,681

 

Noncurrent liabilities of discontinued operations (2) (3) (4)

 

$

 —

 

303

 

282

 

285

 

140

 

Total equity (1)

 

$

5,744

 

10,083

 

6,861

 

6,875

 

5,780

 

Noncontrolling interest in equity of subsidiaries (2)

 

$

120

 

99

 

89

 

88

 

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

    

2018

    

2017

    

2016

    

2015

    

2014

 

 

 

amounts in millions,

 

 

 

except per share amounts

 

Summary Statement of Operations Data:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revenue

 

$

14,070

 

10,404

 

10,647

 

9,989

 

10,499

 

Operating income (loss)

 

$

1,324

 

1,043

 

968

 

1,116

 

1,188

 

Interest expense

 

$

(381)

 

(355)

 

(363)

 

(360)

 

(387)

 

Share of earnings (losses) of affiliates, net

 

$

(162)

 

(200)

 

(68)

 

(178)

 

(19)

 

Realized and unrealized gains (losses) on financial instruments, net

 

$

76

 

145

 

414

 

114

 

(57)

 

Gains (losses) on transactions, net (1)

 

$

 1

 

410

 

 9

 

110

 

74

 

Earnings (loss) from continuing operations (4) (5):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qurate Retail common stock

 

$

722

 

1,254

 

511

 

674

 

574

 

Liberty Ventures common stock

 

 

101

 

781

 

264

 

(43)

 

(36)

 

 

 

$

823

 

2,035

 

775

 

631

 

538

 

Basic earnings (loss) from continuing operations attributable to Qurate Retail, Inc. stockholders per common share:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series A and Series B Qurate Retail common stock

 

$

1.46

 

2.71

 

0.99

 

1.35

 

1.10

 

Series A and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock (3) (4)

 

$

1.17

 

14.34

 

5.54

 

(0.36)

 

(0.43)

 

Diluted earnings (loss) from continuing operations attributable to Qurate Retail, Inc. stockholders per common share:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Series A and Series B Qurate Retail common stock

 

$

1.45

 

2.70

 

0.98

 

1.33

 

1.09

 

Series A and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock (3) (4)

 

$

1.16

 

14.17

 

5.49

 

(0.36)

 

(0.43)

 


(1)

On December 29, 2017, the Company acquired the remaining approximately 62% of HSN it did not already own in an all-stock transaction, making HSN a wholly-owned subsidiary. In conjunction with the application of acquisition accounting, the Company recorded a full step up in basis of HSN along with a gain between our historical basis and the fair value of our interest in HSN.

(2)

On August 27, 2014, the Company completed the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off. The consolidated financial statements of Qurate Retail have been prepared to reflect TripAdvisor Holdings as discontinued operations. However, the noncontrolling interest attributable to our former ownership interest in TripAdvisor is included in the noncontrolling interest line item in the consolidated balance sheet from the date of acquisition until the date of completion of the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off. See Item 1 “ Business” for further details on the TripAdvisor Holdings Spin-Off. 

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(3)

The Expedia Holdings Split-Off was effected on November 4, 2016 as a split-off through the redemption of a portion of Qurate Retail’s Series A and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock for shares of Expedia Holdings (as defined below). The consolidated financial statements of Qurate Retail have been prepared to reflect the Company’s interest in Expedia (as defined below) as a discontinued operation for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014.

(4)

The GCI Liberty Split-Off (defined below) was effected on March 9, 2018.  The split-off of Qurate Retail’s interest in Liberty Broadband (as defined below) had a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations. Accordingly, Qurate Retail’s interest in Liberty Broadband is presented as a discontinued operation for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016.

(5)

Includes earnings (losses) from continuing operations attributable to the noncontrolling interests of $48 million, $46 million, $39 million, $42 million and $40 million for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014, respectively.

 

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Item 7.  Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion and analysis provides information concerning our results of operations and financial condition. This discussion should be read in conjunction with our accompanying consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto. Additionally, see note 2 in the accompanying consolidated financial statements for an overview of new accounting standards that we have adopted or that we plan to adopt that have had or may have an impact on our financial statements.

Overview

We own controlling and non-controlling interests in a broad range of video and online commerce companies. Our largest businesses and reportable segments are QVC U.S. and QVC International. QVC markets and sells a wide variety of consumer products in the United States (“U.S.”) and several foreign countries, primarily by means of its televised shopping programs and the Internet through its domestic and international websites and mobile applications. On December 29, 2017, we acquired the approximately 62% of HSN we did not already own in an all-stock transaction (the “Merger”) making HSN a wholly-owned subsidiary. On December 31, 2018, Qurate Retail transferred our 100% ownership interest in HSN to QVC, Inc. through a transaction among entities under common control.  Following this transaction, Cornerstone (a former subsidiary of HSN) remains a subsidiary of Qurate Retail. HSN is a reportable segment, and Cornerstone is included in the “Corporate and other” reportable segment. On October 1, 2015 we acquired zulily, llc (“zulily”), an online retailer offering customers a fun and entertaining shopping experience with a fresh selection of new product styles launched every day. zulily is a reportable segment.  References throughout this annual report to “QVC” refer to QVC, Inc., which includes HSN, QVC U.S. and QVC International.

   

Our “Corporate and other” category includes our consolidated subsidiary Cornerstone, along with various cost and equity method investments. See discussion below for the entities that were included in Corporate and other in prior periods.

Prior to the Transactions (described and defined below), the Company utilized tracking stocks in its capital structure. A tracking stock is a type of common stock that the issuing company intends to reflect or "track" the economic performance of a particular business or "group," rather than the economic performance of the company as a whole. Qurate Retail had two tracking stocks—QVC Group common stock and Liberty Ventures common stock, which were intended to track and reflect the economic performance of Qurate Retail’s businesses, assets and liabilities attributed to the QVC Group and the Ventures Group, respectively.  The QVC Group was comprised of the Company’s wholly-owned subsidiaries QVC, zulily, HSN and Cornerstone among other assets and liabilities.  The Ventures Group was comprised of businesses not included in the QVC Group including Evite Inc. (“Evite”) and our interests in Liberty Broadband Corporation (“Liberty Broadband”), LendingTree, Inc. (“LendingTree”), investments in Charter Communications, Inc. (“Charter”) and ILG, Inc. (“ILG”), among other assets and liabilities (which were all included in the Corporate and other category). The Company’s results are attributed to the QVC Group and the Ventures Group through March 9, 2018.

On March 9, 2018, Qurate Retail completed the transactions contemplated by the Agreement and Plan of Reorganization (as amended, the “Reorganization Agreement,” and the transactions contemplated thereby, the “Transactions”) among General Communication, Inc. (“GCI”), an Alaska corporation, and Liberty Interactive LLC, a Delaware limited liability company and a direct wholly-owned subsidiary of Qurate Retail (“LI LLC”). Pursuant to the Reorganization Agreement, GCI amended and restated its articles of incorporation (which resulted in GCI being renamed GCI Liberty, Inc. (“GCI Liberty”)) and effected a reclassification and auto conversion of its common stock. After market close on March 8, 2018, Qurate Retail’s board of directors approved the reattribution of certain assets and liabilities from Qurate Retail’s Ventures Group to its QVC Group, which was effective immediately. The reattributed assets and liabilities included cash, Qurate Retail’s interest in ILG, certain green energy investments, LI LLC’s exchangeable debentures, and certain tax benefits. 

Following these events, Qurate Retail acquired GCI Liberty through a reorganization in which certain Qurate Retail interests, assets and liabilities attributed to the Ventures Group were contributed (the “contribution”) to GCI Liberty in exchange for a controlling interest in GCI Liberty. Qurate Retail and LI LLC contributed to GCI Liberty their entire equity interest in Liberty Broadband, Charter, and LendingTree, the Evite operating business and other assets and liabilities attributed to Qurate Retail’s Venture Group (following the reattribution), in exchange for (a) the issuance to LI LLC of a number of shares of GCI Liberty Class A Common Stock and a number of shares of GCI Liberty Class B Common Stock

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equal to the number of outstanding shares of Series A Liberty Ventures common stock and Series B Liberty Ventures common stock on March 9, 2018, respectively, (b) cash and (c) the assumption of certain liabilities by GCI Liberty.

Following the contribution, Qurate Retail effected a tax-free separation of its controlling interest in the combined company (the “GCI Liberty Split-Off”), GCI Liberty, to the holders of Liberty Ventures common stock in full redemption of all outstanding shares of such stock, in which each outstanding share of Series A Liberty Ventures common stock was redeemed for one share of GCI Liberty Class A common stock and each outstanding share of Series B Liberty Ventures common stock was redeemed for one share of GCI Liberty Class B common stock.  Simultaneous with the closing of the Transactions, QVC Group common stock became the only outstanding common stock of Qurate Retail, and thus QVC Group common stock ceased to function as a tracking stock. On April 9, 2018, Liberty Interactive Corporation was renamed Qurate Retail, Inc. On May 23, 2018, Qurate Retail amended its charter to eliminate the tracking stock capitalization structure and reclassify each share of QVC Group common stock into one share of the corresponding series of new common stock of Qurate Retail. Throughout this annual report, we refer to our Series A and Series B common stock as “Qurate Retail common stock” and “QVC Group common stock.” In July 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) completed its review of the GCI Liberty Split-Off and informed Qurate Retail that it agreed with the nontaxable characterization of the transactions. Qurate Retail received an Issue Resolution Agreement from the IRS documenting this conclusion.

   

On October 17, 2018, Qurate Retail announced a series of initiatives designed to better position its HSN and QVC U.S. businesses (“QRG Initiatives”). As part of the QRG Initiatives, QVC will close its fulfillment center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and has entered into an agreement to lease a new fulfillment center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, commencing in 2019 (see note 15  to the accompanying consolidated financial statements). Expenditures related to the QRG Initiatives are recorded as part of transaction related costs.  

Disposals 

On July 22, 2016, Qurate Retail completed its previously announced spin-off (the “CommerceHub Spin-Off”) of its former wholly-owned subsidiary CommerceHub.  CommerceHub is included in the Corporate and other segment through July 22, 2016 and is not presented as a discontinued operation as the CommerceHub Spin-Off did not have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations and financial results.

On November 4, 2016, Qurate Retail completed its previously announced split-off (the “Expedia Holdings Split-Off”) of its former wholly-owned subsidiary Liberty Expedia Holdings, Inc. (“Expedia Holdings”). At the time of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off, Expedia Holdings was comprised of, among other things, Qurate Retail’s former interest in Expedia Group, Inc., formerly known as Expedia, Inc. (“Expedia”) and Qurate Retail’s former wholly-owned subsidiary Bodybuilding. On November 2, 2016, Expedia Holdings borrowed $350 million under a new margin loan and distributed $299 million, net of certain debt related costs, to Qurate Retail on November 4, 2016.

Qurate Retail viewed Expedia and Bodybuilding as separate components and evaluated them separately for discontinued operations presentation. Based on a quantitative analysis, the split-off of Qurate Retail’s interest in Expedia had a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations, primarily due to one-time gains on transactions recognized by Expedia.  Accordingly, the consolidated financial statements of Qurate Retail have been prepared to reflect Qurate Retail’s interest in Expedia as a discontinued operation. The disposition of Bodybuilding as part of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off did not have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s historical results nor is it expected to have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s future operations.  Accordingly, Bodybuilding is not presented as a discontinued operation in the consolidated financial statements of Qurate Retail. Bodybuilding is included in the Corporate and other segment through November 4, 2016.

As a result of the GCI Liberty Split-Off, Qurate Retail viewed LendingTree, Evite and Liberty Broadband as separate components and evaluated them separately for discontinued operations presentation. Based on a quantitative analysis, the split-off of Qurate Retail’s interest in Liberty Broadband had a major effect on Qurate Retail’s operations. Accordingly, Qurate Retail’s interest in Liberty Broadband is presented as a discontinued operation. The disposition of Evite and LendingTree as part of the GCI Liberty Split-Off did not have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s historical results nor is it expected to have a major effect on Qurate Retail’s future operations. Accordingly, Evite and LendingTree are not presented as discontinued operations.

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Strategies and Challenges

Televised Shopping Businesses.   The goal of QVC is to extend its leadership in video commerce, e-commerce, mobile commerce and social commerce by continuing to create the world’s most engaging shopping experiences, combining the best of retail, media, and social, highly differentiated from traditional brick-and-mortar stores or transactional e-commerce.  QVC provides customers with curated collections of unique products, made personal and relevant by the power of storytelling. QVC curates experiences, conversations and communities for millions of highly discerning shoppers, and also curates large audiences, across its many platforms, for its thousands of brand partners.

QVC intends to employ several strategies to achieve these objectives. Among these strategies are to (i) extend the breadth, relevance and exposure of the QVC brand; (ii) source products that represent unique quality and value; (iii) create engaging, video-rich shopping experiences across its broadcast networks, websites, mobile applications and social pages (iv) leverage customer loyalty and continue multi-platform expansion; and (v) create a compelling and differentiated customer service experience. In addition, QVC expects to expand globally by leveraging its existing systems, infrastructure and skills in other countries around the world.

Future net revenue growth will primarily depend on sales growth from e-commerce and mobile platforms, additions of new customers from households already receiving QVC’s broadcast programming, and increased spending from existing customers. Future net revenue may also be affected by (i) the willingness of cable television and direct-to-home satellite system operators to continue carrying QVC’s programming services; (ii) QVC’s ability to maintain favorable channel positioning, which may become more difficult due to governmental action or from distributors converting analog customers to digital; (iii) changes in television viewing habits because of personal video recorders, video-on-demand and internet video services; and (iv) general economic conditions.

Economic uncertainty in various regions of the world in which our subsidiaries and affiliates operate could adversely affect demand for their products and services since a substantial portion of their revenue is derived from discretionary spending by individuals, which typically falls during times of economic instability. Global financial markets have recently experienced disruptions, including increased volatility and diminished liquidity and credit availability. If economic and financial market conditions in the United States (“U.S.”) or other key markets, including Japan and Europe, become uncertain or deteriorate, customers may respond by suspending, delaying, or reducing their discretionary spending. A suspension, delay or reduction in discretionary spending could adversely affect revenue. Accordingly, our businesses’ ability to increase or maintain revenue and earnings could be adversely affected to the extent that relevant economic environments decline. Such weak economic conditions may also inhibit QVC’s expansion into new European and other markets. The Company is currently unable to predict the extent of any of these potential adverse effects.

On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom (“U.K.”) held a referendum in which British citizens approved an exit from the European Union (the "EU"), commonly referred to as “Brexit.” As a result of the referendum, the global markets and currencies have been adversely impacted, including a sharp decline in the value of the U.K. Pound Sterling as compared to the U.S. Dollar. Volatility in exchange rates is expected to continue in the short term as the U.K. negotiates its exit from the EU. In the longer term, any impact from Brexit on QVC will depend, in part, on the outcome of tariff, trade, regulatory and other negotiations. Although it is unknown what the result of those negotiations will be, or whether the U.K. will leave the European Union with an agreement as to the terms of its withdrawal, it is possible that new terms may adversely affect QVC’s operations and financial results in a number of ways, not all of which are currently readily apparent. On March 29, 2017, the U.K. invoked Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which is the first step of the U.K.’s formal exit from the EU. This started the two year window in which the U.K. and the European Commission can negotiate future terms for imports, exports, taxes, employment, immigration and other areas, ending in the exit of the U.K. from the EU. Failing the implementation of an agreed extension, the U.K. is scheduled to withdraw from the E.U. on March 29, 2019.  The U.K. government’s draft agreement on the withdrawal of the U.K. from the E.U. was defeated in the House of Commons on January 15, 2019. As a result, the final terms of the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. are, and will remain for the immediate future, unclear. The U.K. may leave the E.U. without any agreement as to the terms of its withdrawal or the future economic relationship between the U.K. and the E.U. It is also possible that the U.K. will withdraw its notification to leave the E.U. or that there will be a second referendum on Brexit.

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During his campaign in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the current President of the U.S. expressed apprehension towards existing trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and suggested that the U.S. would renegotiate or withdraw from certain trade agreements. He has advocated for and imposed tariffs on goods imported into the United States, particularly from China. On January 23, 2017, the President of the United States signed a presidential memorandum to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. On November 30, 2018 the U.S., Mexico and Canada signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which will impact imports and exports among those countries. These and other proposed actions, if implemented, could adversely affect our business because we sell imported products.

zulily. zulily’s objective is to be the leading online retail destination for shoppers. zulily’s goal is to be part of its customers’ daily routine, allowing them to visit zulily sites and discover a selection of fresh, new and affordable merchandise curated for them every morning. zulily intends to employ the following strategies to achieve these goals and objectives: (i) acquire new customers; (ii) increase customer loyalty and repeat purchasing; (iii) add new vendors and strengthen existing vendor relationships; (iv) invest in mobile platform and channels with which its customers want to engage; and (v) invest in low cost supply chain systems in the U.S. and cross border.

zulily has limited contractual assurances of continued supply, pricing or access to new products, and vendors could change the terms upon which they sell to zulily or discontinue selling to zulily for future sales at any time. As zulily grows, continuing to identify a sufficient number of new emerging brands and smaller boutique vendors may become more and more of a challenge. If zulily is not able to identify and effectively promote these new brands, it may lose customers to competitors. Even if zulily identifies new vendors, it may not be able to purchase desired merchandise in sufficient quantities or on acceptable terms in the future, and products from alternative sources, if any, may be of a lesser quality or more expensive than those from existing vendors. In addition, larger national brands may offer products that are less unique, and it may be easier for zulily’s competitors to offer such products at prices or upon terms that may be compelling to consumers. An inability to purchase suitable merchandise on acceptable terms or to source new vendors could have an adverse effect on zulily’s business.

To support its large and diverse base of vendors and its flash sales model that requires constantly changing products, zulily must incur costs related to its merchandising team, photography studios and creative personnel. As zulily grows, it may not be able to continue to expand its product offerings in a cost-effective manner. In addition, the variety in size and sophistication of zulily’s vendors presents different challenges to its infrastructure and operations. zulily’s emerging brands and smaller boutique vendors may be less experienced in manufacturing and shipping, which may lead to inconsistencies in quality, delays in the delivery of merchandise or additional fulfillment cost. zulily’s larger national brands may impose additional requirements or offer less favorable terms than smaller vendors related to margins and inventory ownership and risk and may also be unable to ship products timely. If zulily is unable to maintain and effectively manage its relationships with emerging brands and smaller boutique vendors or larger national brands, zulily’s business could be adversely affected.

 

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Results of Operations—Consolidated

General.    We provide in the tables below information regarding our Consolidated Operating Results and Other Income and Expense, as well as information regarding the contribution to those items from our principal reportable segments. The "Corporate and other" category consists of our consolidated subsidiary Cornerstone, along with various cost and equity method investments. For a more detailed discussion and analysis of the financial results of the principal reporting segments, see "Results of Operations - Businesses" below.

Operating Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

   

2018

   

2017

   

2016

 

 

 

amounts in millions

 

Revenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QVC U.S.

 

$

6,349

 

6,140

 

6,120

 

QVC International

 

 

2,738

 

2,631

 

2,562

 

HSN

 

 

2,202

 

NA

 

NA

 

zulily

 

 

1,817

 

1,613

 

1,547

 

Corporate and other

 

 

973

 

23

 

428

 

Inter-segment eliminations

 

 

(9)

 

(3)

 

(10)

 

Consolidated Qurate Retail

 

$

14,070

 

10,404

 

10,647

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former QVC Group

 

 

(a)

 

10,381

 

10,219

 

Former Ventures Group

 

 

(a)

 

23

 

428

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating Income (Loss)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QVC U.S.

 

$

1,112

 

994

 

915

 

QVC International

 

 

351

 

353

 

288

 

HSN

 

 

49

 

(38)

 

NA

 

zulily

 

 

(95)

 

(129)

 

(152)

 

Corporate and other

 

 

(93)

 

(137)

 

(83)

 

Consolidated Qurate Retail

 

$

1,324

 

1,043

 

968

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former QVC Group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former Ventures Group

 

 

(a)

 

1,100

 

1,011

 

 

 

 

(a)

 

(57)

 

(43)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjusted OIBDA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QVC U.S.

 

$

1,417

 

1,455

 

1,435

 

QVC International

 

 

429

 

451

 

405

 

HSN

 

 

213

 

NA

 

NA

 

zulily

 

 

108

 

91

 

112

 

Corporate and other

 

 

(13)

 

(47)

 

(13)

 

Consolidated Qurate Retail

 

$

2,154

 

1,950

 

1,939

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former QVC Group

 

 

(a)

 

1,977

 

1,936

 

Former Ventures Group

 

 

(a)

 

(27)

 

 3

 


(a)

Due to the GCI Liberty Split-Off, including the redemption of outstanding shares of Liberty Ventures common stock, the Ventures Group and the QVC Group tracking stock structure no longer exists as of March 9, 2018, however amounts were attributed to the Ventures Group and the QVC Group from January 1, 2018 through March 9, 2018. Attributed to the Ventures Group was revenue of $3 million, operating loss of $8 million, and an Adjusted OIBDA loss of $5 million for the year ended December 31, 2018.   

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Revenue.    Our consolidated revenue increased 35.2% and decreased 2.3% for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. The increase was primarily related to the acquisition of HSN, as no HSN revenue was included in 2017 results due to the timing of the acquisition.  Corporate and other revenue increased $950 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, as compared to the corresponding period in the prior year due to the purchase of Cornerstone which had revenue of $970 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, partially offset by a decrease in revenue due to the disposition of Evite in the GCI Liberty Split-Off ($21 million).  Corporate and other revenue decreased $405 million for the year ended December 31, 2017, as compared to the corresponding prior year period due to the disposition of Bodybuilding in November 2016 as part of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off ($355 million) and the CommerceHub Spin-Off in July 2016 ($51 million).  QVC U.S. revenue increased $209 million and increased $20 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. QVC International revenue increased $107 million and increased $69 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. zulily’s revenue increased $204 million and $66 million during the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year period. See "Results of Operations - Businesses" below for a more complete discussion of the results of operations of QVC U.S. and QVC International, HSN and zulily.

Operating income (loss).    Our consolidated operating income increased $281 million and  increased  $75 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. QVC U.S. operating income increased $118 million and increased $79 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. QVC International operating income decreased $2 million and increased $65 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. zulily’s operating losses improved $34 million and $23 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. HSN had operating income of $49 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. HSN’s operating loss in 2017 was the result of $38 million of severance-related expenses, including salaries and wages and stock-based compensation expense, recorded in the period ended December 31, 2017. Operating losses for Corporate and other improved $44 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, as compared to the corresponding period in the period year, due to fewer corporate costs at the Liberty Ventures Group due to the GCI Liberty Split-Off in the first quarter of 2018 and a decrease in stock compensation expense, partially offset by an increase in purchase accounting amortization at Cornerstone in 2018.  Operating losses for Corporate and other increased $54 million for the year ended December 31, 2017, as compared to the corresponding prior year period, primarily due to an increase in stock compensation expense as a result of the stock option exchange (see note 12 to the accompanying consolidated financial statements), and transaction costs associated with the acquisition of HSN, partially offset by the disposition of Bodybuilding in November 2016 as part of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off, and the CommerceHub Spin-Off. See "Results of Operations - Businesses" below for a more complete discussion of the results of operations of QVC U.S. and QVC International, HSN and zulily.

Adjusted OIBDA.    We define Adjusted OIBDA as revenue less cost of sales, operating expenses and selling, general and administrative ("SG&A") expenses (excluding stock compensation). Our chief operating decision maker and management team use this measure of performance in conjunction with other measures to evaluate our businesses and make decisions about allocating resources among our businesses. We believe this is an important indicator of the operational strength and performance of our businesses, including each business's ability to service debt and fund capital expenditures. In addition, this measure allows us to view operating results, perform analytical comparisons and benchmarking between businesses and identify strategies to improve performance. This measure of performance excludes depreciation and amortization, stock-based compensation, certain purchase accounting adjustments, separately reported litigation settlements, transaction related costs (including restructuring, integration, and advisory fees), and impairment charges that are included in the measurement of operating income pursuant to generally accepted accounting policies (“GAAP”).  Accordingly, Adjusted OIBDA should be considered in addition to, but not as a substitute for, operating income, net income, cash flow provided by operating activities and other measures of financial performance prepared in accordance with GAAP. See note 16 to the accompanying consolidated financial statements for a reconciliation of Adjusted OIBDA to operating income and earnings (loss) from continuing operations before income taxes.

Consolidated Adjusted OIBDA increased $204 million and $11 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. The increase was primarily related to HSN which had Adjusted OIBDA of $213 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, and no Adjusted OIBDA for the year

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ended December 31, 2017 due to the timing of the acquisition.  QVC U.S. Adjusted OIBDA decreased $38 million and increased $20 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. QVC International Adjusted OIBDA decreased $22 million and increased $46 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. zulily’s Adjusted OIBDA increased $17 million and decreased $21 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. Corporate and other Adjusted OIBDA increased $34 million for the year ended December 31, 2018, as compared to the corresponding period in the prior year due to the acquisition of Cornerstone as well as fewer corporate costs compared to the prior year.  Corporate and other Adjusted OIBDA decreased $34 million for the year ended December 31, 2017, as compared to the corresponding period in the prior year, primarily due to the disposition of Bodybuilding in November 2016 as part of the Expedia Holdings Split-Off ($24 million), and the CommerceHub Spin-Off in July 2016 ($16 million). See "Results of Operations - Businesses" below for a more complete discussion of the results of operations of QVC U.S. and QVC International, HSN and zulily.  

Other Income and Expense

Components of Other Income (Expense) are presented in the table below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

    

2018

    

2017

    

2016

 

 

 

amounts in millions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest expense

 

$

(381)

 

(355)

 

(363)

 

Share of earnings (losses) of affiliate, net

 

 

(162)

 

(200)

 

(68)

 

Realized and unrealized gains (losses) on financial instruments, net

 

 

76

 

145

 

414

 

Gains (losses) on transactions, net

 

 

 1

 

410

 

 9

 

Tax sharing income (expense) with GCI Liberty, Inc.

 

 

32

 

 —

 

 —

 

Other, net

 

 

(7)

 

 7

 

131

 

Other income (expense)

 

$

(441)

 

 7

 

123

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former QVC Group

 

 

(a)

 

151

 

(203)

 

Former Ventures Group

 

 

(a)

 

(144)

 

326

 

 

(a)

Due to the GCI Liberty Split-Off, the Ventures Group and the QVC Group tracking stocks no longer exist as of March 9, 2018, however amounts were attributed to the Ventures Group and the QVC Group from January 1, 2018 through March 9, 2018. Attributed to the Ventures Group was other income of $120 million for the year ended December 31, 2018 primarily related to mark-to-market adjustments on the investments in Charter and ILG. 

Interest expense.    Interest expense increased $26 million and decreased $8 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods. The increase in interest expense for the year ended December 31, 2018 is due to the HSN Bank Credit Facility that was not included during the year ended December 31, 2017, and higher amounts outstanding and higher average interest rates on variable rate debt at QVC.  The decrease in interest expense for the year ended December 31, 2017 is due to higher average debt balances at the corporate level in 2016, and the redemption of the majority of our 0.75% Exchangeable Senior Debentures due 2043 during the second and third quarter of 2016.  

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Share of earnings (losses) of affiliates.    The following table presents our share of earnings (losses) of affiliates:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

    

2018

    

2017

    

2016

 

 

 

amounts in millions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HSN (1)

 

$

NA

 

40

 

48

 

FTD Companies, Inc. ("FTD") (2)

 

 

(70)

 

(146)

 

(41)

 

LendingTree (3)

 

 

 —

 

 7

 

12

 

Other (4)

 

 

(92)

 

(101)

 

(87)

 

 

 

$

(162)

 

(200)

 

(68)

 


(1)

On December 29, 2017, the Company acquired the approximately 62% of HSN it did not already own in an all-stock transaction making HSN a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company.  As HSN is no longer an equity affiliate as of this date, the Company has not recorded share of earnings (losses) related to HSN for the year ended December 31, 2018.

(2)

FTD recorded an impairment during the second quarter of 2018, and Qurate Retail recorded its portion of FTD’s impairment. The Company recorded an additional impairment on its investment in FTD during the fourth quarter of 2018.   During the year ended December 31, 2017, the carrying value of Qurate’s investment in FTD was written down to its fair value.

(3)

As a result of the GCI Liberty Split-Off, LendingTree is no longer an equity affiliate of the Company as of March 9, 2018, and the Company’s share of LendingTree’s losses for the year ended December 31, 2018 are recorded through March 9, 2018. 

(4)

The share of losses in the “Other” category is primarily related to our investments in alternative energy solution entities. These entities typically operate at a loss and we record our share of such losses. We note these entities typically have favorable tax attributes and credits, which are recorded in our tax accounts. 

Realized and unrealized gains (losses) on financial instruments.    Realized and unrealized gains (losses) on financial instruments are comprised of changes in the fair value of the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Years ended December 31,

 

 

    

2018

    

2017

    

2016

 

 

 

amounts in millions

 

Equity securities

 

$

155

 

434

 

723

 

Exchangeable senior debentures

 

 

(3)

 

(193)

 

(308)

 

Indemnification asset

 

 

(70)

 

 —

 

 —

 

Other financial instruments

 

 

(6)

 

(96)

 

(1)

 

 

 

$

76

 

145

 

414

 

 

The changes in these accounts are due primarily to market factors and changes in the fair value of the underlying stocks or financial instruments to which these relate. The decrease for the year ended December 31, 2018 as compared to the corresponding prior year period was primarily driven by a decrease in the unrealized gain on the investment in Charter and the contribution of Charter to GCI Liberty in the GCI Liberty Split-Off, a decrease in unrealized gains on the investment in ILG, and an unrealized loss on the indemnification asset as a result of the GCI Liberty Split-Off, partially offset by an increase in unrealized gains on exchangeable debt and derivative instruments.  The decrease for the year ended December 31, 2017 as compared to the corresponding prior year period was primarily driven by the investments in Liberty Broadband and Charter experiencing higher gains during 2016 compared to 2017, as well as the exchange of a majority of our  0.75% Exchangeable Senior Debentures due 2043 during 2016 (see note 6 to the accompanying consolidated financial statements for additional discussion). 

Gains on transactions, net.   Gain on transactions, net, decreased $409 million and increased $401 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, as compared to the corresponding prior year periods.   The decrease in gain on transactions, net for the year ended December 31, 2018 is due to the acquisition of HSN in 2017. In

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conjunction with the application of acquisition accounting, we recorded a full step up in basis of HSN along with a gain between our historical basis and the fair value of our interest in HSN in 2017.  The gain on transactions, net, for the year ended December 31, 2016 is primarily the result of the sale of Right Start in January 2016.

Tax sharing income (expense) with GCI Liberty.   Due to the GCI Liberty Split-Off, the Company entered into a tax sharing agreement with GCI Liberty.  As a result, the Company recognized tax sharing income of $32 million for the year ended December 31, 2018.

Other, net. The primary components of other, net are gains (losses) on dilution of investments in affiliates, foreign exchange gains (losses) and interest income. Other, net decreased $14 million for the year ended December 31, 2018 when compared to the corresponding prior year period primarily due to a loss on extinguishment related to the exchange of the 1.75% Exchangeable Debentures due 2046 (the “1.75% Exchangeable Debentures”) in June 2018 (see note 6 of the accompanying consolidated financial statements), partially offset by an increase in foreign exchange gains and interest income.  Other, net decreased $124 million for the year ended December 31, 2017 when compared to the corresponding prior year period primarily due to a change in gain (loss) on dilution of investments of $80 million and a change in foreign exchange gains (losses) of $44 million.  

Income taxes.  The Company had an income tax expense of $60 million, income tax benefit of $985 million and income tax expense of $316 million for the years ended December 31, 2018,  2017 and 2016, respectively.  Our effective tax rate for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016 was 6.8%, 93.8% and 29.0% respectively.  In 2018 the effective tax rate was lower than the U.S. federal tax of 21% primarily due to tax benefits from tax credits and incentives generated by our alternative energy investments, a reduction in the Company’s state effective tax rate used to measure deferred taxes resulting from the GCI Liberty Split-Off in March 2018, and a reduction in the Company’s state effective tax rate used to measure deferred taxes resulting from a state law change during the second quarter.  In connection with the analysis of the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the “Tax Act”), as discussed in note 9 in the accompanying consolidated financial statements, the Company has recorded a discrete net tax benefit in the period ending December 31, 2017. This net benefit primarily consisted of a net benefit for the corporate rate reduction. In addition our tax rate was impacted by the consolidation of our equity method investment in HSN during the year ended December 31, 2017. The effective tax rate in 2016 was less than the U.S. federal tax rate of 35% primarily due to tax credits and incentives derived from our alternative energy investments.

Net earnings.    We had net earnings of $964 million, $2,487 million and $1,274 million for the years ended December 31, 2018,  2017 and 2016, respectively. The change in net earnings was the result of the above-described fluctuations in our revenue, expenses and other gains and losses. 

Liquidity and Capital Resources

As of December 31, 2018 substantially all of our cash and cash equivalents are invested in U.S. Treasury securities, other government securities or government guaranteed funds, AAA rated money market funds and other highly rated financial and corporate debt instruments. 

The following are potential sources of liquidity: available cash balances, equity issuances, dividend and interest receipts, proceeds from asset sales, monetization of our public investment portfolio, debt (including availability under QVC’s Bank Credit Facilities, (the “Fourth Amended and Restated Credit Facility”), as discussed in note 8 of the accompanying consolidated financial statements) and cash generated by the operating activities of our wholly-owned subsidiaries.  Cash generated by the operating activities of our subsidiaries is only a source of liquidity to the extent such cash exceeds the working capital needs of the subsidiaries and is not otherwise restricted such as, in the case of QVC and zulily,  due to a requirement that a leverage ratio (defined as the ratio of subsidiaries’ consolidated total debt to Adjusted OIBDA for the most recent four fiscal quarter period) of less than 3.5 to 1.0 must be maintained. 

During the year, there were no changes to our corporate debt credit ratings or our consolidated subsidiaries' debt credit ratings, except for LI, LLC’s issue-level rating which was downgraded to BB- from BB by S&P Global Ratings in March 2018. All other ratings remained unchanged.    Qurate Retail and its subsidiaries are in compliance with their debt covenants as of December 31, 2018.

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As of December 31, 2018,  Qurate Retail's liquidity position consisted of the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash and cash

 

Equity

 

 

 

equivalents

 

securities

 

 

 

amounts in millions

 

QVC U.S. and QVC International

    

$

503

    

 

HSN

 

 

40

 

 —

 

zulily

 

 

47

 

 

Corporate and other

 

 

63

 

96

 

Total Qurate Retail

 

$

653

 

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the extent that the Company recognizes any taxable gains from the sale of assets, we may incur tax expense and be required to make tax payments, thereby reducing any cash proceeds.  Additionally, we have $2.3  billion available for borrowing under the QVC Bank Credit Facility at December 31, 2018.  As of December 31, 2018, QVC had approximately $216 million of cash and cash equivalents held in foreign subsidiaries that is available for domestic purposes with no significant tax consequences upon repatriation to the U.S. QVC accrues taxes on the unremitted earnings of its international subsidiaries. Approximately 70% of this foreign cash balance was that of QVC Japan. QVC owns 60% of QVC Japan and shares all profits and losses with the 40% minority interest holder, Mitsui & Co, LTD.  QVC believes that it currently has appropriate legal structures in place to repatriate foreign cash as tax efficiently as possible and meet the business needs of QVC.

Additionally, our operating businesses have generated, on average, more than $1 billion in annual cash provided by operating activities over the prior three years and we do not anticipate any significant reductions in that amount in future periods.