Alibaba Tries to Shore Up Investors’ Confidence
HONG KONG — The Alibaba Group of China has disappointed investors since its record-breaking American stock listing nearly two years ago, as volatile financial results and regulatory run-ins have driven the price of its shares down almost to where they began.
Now the e-commerce giant is trying to reassure.
For the first time, Alibaba on Tuesday offered investors financial guidance for the coming year, saying that it expected revenue growth to accelerate from last year’s pace. At a meeting at its Hangzhou headquarters, Alibaba cited strength in its core business, despite China’s slowing economic growth, as well as benefits from new ventures that have raised eyebrows among some investors.
The forecast comes as Alibaba seeks to demonstrate that its strategy, which has long focused on growth, is good for business.
In China, Alibaba operates online sales platforms that connect consumers with mom-and-pop stores, as well as with global brands like Burberry and Zara. It has been showing sales growth on its platforms using a measure called gross merchandise volume, a yardstick for transactions across its platforms.
Alibaba said on Tuesday that it would de-emphasize that figure, saying it would no longer report it quarterly. It will continue to report an annual figure, and offered a target for 2020.
It had provided the measure at the request of investors, “but actually, in our heart, we know this is not exactly the only index,” said Jack Ma, the company’s executive chairman, who spoke at the investor event.
Alibaba has invested in a wide array of new businesses, including movies and video, food delivery services and news outlets. On Tuesday, the company stressed that its deals would help it retain Chinese consumers, who increasingly use their smartphones for daily tasks. Still, Maggie Wu, the company’s chief financial officer, said that in the near term, revenue from new businesses would reduce the company’s profit margin because it was still in building mode.
Last month, Alibaba said the United States Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the way the company accounted for the sales data from Singles Day, an unofficial online shopping holiday in China. Officials are also investigating how the company accounts for a logistics initiative called Cainiao. Alibaba has said that it is cooperating and that new disclosures would help the S.E.C. answer its questions.
上个月，阿里巴巴公布，美国证券交易委员会(United States Securities and Exchange Commission)正在调查该公司“光棍节”——中国一个非正式的网上购物节——销售数据的计算方式。美国官方还在调查该公司下属企业菜鸟物流的会计核算方式。阿里巴巴表示正在配合他们的工作，而新披露的消息将有助于回答美国证券交易委员会的问题。
Mr. Ma’s decision to attend and speak at the meeting — he rarely speaks publicly on behalf of the company these days — appeared to be aimed at soothing investors. Mr. Ma, who founded Alibaba, has concentrated in recent years more on philanthropy than on the day-to-day operations of the company.
In a wide-ranging speech, Mr. Ma recalled anecdotes from the history of the company, said he was confident about the growth of Alibaba’s main businesses, and mused about its push into health and entertainment.
Mr. Ma also defended Alibaba’s efforts to fight the trade in counterfeit goods, which he said was not easy — partly because fakes have become much better.
“The problem is that the fake products today, they make better quality, better prices than the real products, than the real names,” he said, adding that many of the factories tapped by foreign brands had turned to websites like Alibaba’s to distribute fakes and sometimes their own brands.
Mr. Ma said it was not fake products but the business model of selling those products online that was the real threat to major foreign brands.
“We also have to think about one thing: The way of doing business has changed,” he said.
If he seemed to be giving credit to the factories that churn out fakes, he quickly changed tone, making a fist over his heart as he vowed that Alibaba would win the war against counterfeiters.
“We cannot solve the problem 100 percent, because it’s the fight against human instinct,” he said. “But we can solve the problem better than any government, than any organizations, than any people in the world.”
In recent years, some counterfeiters have become more sophisticated, making products so similar to the originals that only experts familiar with details like stitching can tell the difference between the real and the fake.
Alibaba has been the focus of criticism from some international brands because of the availability of fake goods on its sales platforms, particularly Taobao, which hosts goods from numerous small vendors. Last year, it faced criticism from the Chinese government on the issue, and in May, it was suspended from a United States-based coalition against fake goods after accusations it had not done enough to stop counterfeiters.
Ms. Wu, the chief financial officer, said on Tuesday that the company expected revenue for the current fiscal year, which runs through next March, to rise 48 percent from the year before, which is more than analysts had estimated. Excluding some new businesses now rolled into its operations, Alibaba said it expected revenue to rise 36 percent, compared with 33 percent the year before.