Alibaba Sales Up 39% on Increased Consumer Spending in China
HONG KONG — The Alibaba Group said on Thursday that sales rose 39 percent in the fourth quarter, buoyed by increased consumer spending despite a slowing Chinese economy.
Gross merchandise volume, a closely watched measure of the transactions on the company’s websites, rose 24 percent to $115 billion. The company posted a net income of 3.02 renminbi, or 46 cents, per share, lower than the expected 3.60 renminbi a share.
Alibaba’s shares jumped more than 5 percent in premarket trading in New York on Thursday, but there may be a limit to how far they can climb.
When Alibaba was listed in late 2014, the hype the company had built up helped it raise more than $20 billion, the largest public listing in United States history. Since then, a sagging Chinese economy and a slowdown in spending growth on Alibaba’s platforms have meant that despite solid results, the company’s share price has not returned to the level it reached on the first day of trading.
Despite those concerns, the company said on Thursday that it had beaten earnings expectations, potentially restoring some luster. That is in part because Alibaba has succeeded in making more with less.
Although the amount spent on Alibaba’s marketplaces has grown about 20 percent this quarter and last, its revenue from advertisements and commissions on those sites has grown 30 percent or more. In the longer term, investors expect those numbers to align more closely, meaning slower sales growth.
In an attempt to address concerns about China’s economy, Alibaba’s executive vice chairman, Joseph C. Tsai, wrote in a blog post released with the earnings report that Chinese consumers had cash reserves of more than $4.6 trillion.
阿里巴巴董事局执行副主席蔡崇信(Joseph C. Tsai)撰写了一篇博客文章，与财报一起发布，意在回应投资者对中国经济的担忧。文中写到，中国消费者掌握了超过4.6万亿美元的现金储蓄。
“Chinese consumers, with their healthy balance sheets and ability to spend, will propel China’s shift from an export- and investment-led economy to a consumption-driven economy,” Mr. Tsai added, drawing contrasts with American consumers’ high levels of debt before the financial crisis.
Even so, analysts mostly agree that growth in spending on Alibaba’s e-commerce sites will most likely continue to moderate. Combine that with rising competition from JD.com, which operates a business model similar to Amazon’s, as well as skepticism about some of Alibaba’s strategic investments and acquisitions, and the positive earnings lose a bit of their shine.
“Alibaba is easy to pick on because there are a half-dozen small issues they’re facing at the moment,” said Chi Tsang, an HSBC analyst.
“But people don’t think about how much cash this company generates,” he added, pointing out that with Alibaba’s huge cash flow, strong business model and dominance in online shopping, the company is undervalued.
Although it may be a while before the company gets a jolt from an improving Chinese economy, Alibaba could be lifted by its affiliate Ant Financial.
“Ali’s share price could benefit from an I.P.O. of Ant Financial,” the Nomura analyst Jialong Shi wrote in a report, while adding the company was unlikely to be listed this year.
Last week, Ant Financial announced that it had raised $4.5 billion, valuing the company that processes much of the payments on Alibaba’s platforms around $60 billion.