Hong Kong: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd reported its fastest pace of growth in more than four years, as the e-commerce giant’s investments in arenas — from cloud computing to entertainment — carved out new avenues of income.
Revenue at China’s biggest e-commerce company climbed 61 per cent to 80.9 billion yuan (Dh43.35 billion) in the three months ended June, matching the average of analysts’ estimates. Net income slid 41 per cent to 8.7 billion yuan, topping the 7.6 billion yuan projected after taking into account an increase in the valuation of affiliate Ant Financial, which boosted the expense of shares awarded to employees.
Alibaba’s ramping up spending in new arenas as it reduces its reliance on an online retail business facing increased competition from JD.com Inc and Pinduoduo Inc as well as a broader economic slowdown. It’s been busy expanding its Hema supermarket chain, acquiring food delivery network Ele.me and video streaming site Youku. But that spending is hurting margins: adjusted earnings per share came in at 8.04 yuan, short of the 8.19 yuan estimate.
Much of Alibaba’s cash is flowing into China’s $1.3 trillion food retail and services industry, where it’s trying to hold its own against delivery giant and super-app Meituan Dianping. Alibaba said on Thursday that Ele.me has raised more than $3 billion in a new financing round led by SoftBank Group Corp. Alibaba now intends to merge Ele.me with Koubei, another unit focused on connecting restaurants to the internet. “We remain confident on the company’s revenue growth given its diversified product offerings,” said Mae Huang, an analyst at SWS Research Co said in a report. “Despite the short-term costs incurred by the company, we believe Alibaba is building a stronger ecosystem.”
Shares of Alibaba were up about 4 per cent in pre-market trade, after ending largely unchanged in New York ahead of the results. The stock had gained 3 per cent this year, compared with a 1.4 per cent gain for the NYSE Composite Index.
Founder Jack Ma is also making an expensive foray into the $4 trillion retail sector. Alibaba acquired a department store chain with 29 stores and 17 shopping malls last year and also bought a slice of China’s largest hypermarket chain. It’s been shelling out on content to stay abreast of Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc in the video-streaming business. Heavy investments in data centres, for its cloud computing arm, helped almost double revenue in that division to 4.7 billion yuan.