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Alibaba reports 40% growth in fiscal Q4 sales and replaces its CEO

May 7, 2015 03:03 PM
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Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. has taken heat this year over allegations that merchants on its web marketplaces were selling counterfeit goods and placing fake orders in order to gain higher search rankings, but the highly publicized criticisms did not stop Chinese shoppers from buying on Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall shopping portals.

Chinese consumers purchased 600 billion yuan ($96.65 billion) worth of products on Alibaba’s retail marketplaces in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter that ended March 31, up 40% from 430 billion ($69.27 billion) in the fiscal 2014 quarter, Alibaba reported today.

Alibaba’s revenue, which largely comes from merchants advertising on Taobao and paying commissions on sales on the more brand-oriented Tmall, rose 45% to 17.425 billion yuan ($2.811 billion) from the year-ago period. That revenue exceeded the average pre-report projection of $2.77 billion by 27 analysts that cover Alibaba’s stock. Alibaba went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September, raising a record $25 billion.

Despite the strong quarterly results, Alibaba announced that CEO Jonathan Lu will step down May 10 and be replaced with chief operating officer Daniel Zhang. Lu will remain vice chairman of the board. Zhang, who joined Alibaba in 2007 as chief financial officer of Tmall, has been credited with turning Alibaba’s annual Singles’ Day sale on Nov. 11 each year into a major shopping event, and one that extended beyond China last year.

“Daniel is a proven international business leader and innovator with a strong track record of delivering results,” Alibaba chairman Jack Ma says. “Today’s announcement reflects our commitment to continuing to develop strong leadership from within.

For the full year, Alibaba reported that Chinese online shoppers purchased $394 billion worth of goods on its marketplaces. By comparison eBay Inc., which like Alibaba only provides a sales platform for other sellers and does not sell on its own behalf, reported the gross merchandise value of goods sold on its marketplaces in 2014 totaled $83 billion. Amazon, which sells its own goods and operates a marketplace for outside sellers, does not report GMV. But Internet Retailer estimated the value of purchases on Amazon’s marketplaces around the world was about $150 billion in 2014.

Alibaba’s stock market value today stood close to $199 billion versus $195 billion for Amazon.com and $70 billion for eBay. Amazon is No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide.

The transaction value on Tmall jumped 62.2% to 219 billion yuan ($35.3 billion) during the first quarter compared with the same period last year. The value of goods sold on Taobao, where some 9 million sellers offer their wares, increased 29.2% to 381 billion yuan ($61.4 billion).

Active buyers on Alibaba’s marketplaces increased 37% year over year to 350 million.

For the first time this quarter Alibaba’s mobile sales exceeded sales on PCs. Alibaba reported mobile sales increased 157% to 304 billion yuan ($48.97 billion) in this quarter and accounted for 51% of its sales.

“Generally, Alibaba’s performance in this quarter is very strong and it is in line with a stable, growing Chinese e-commerce market,” Guo Hui, a senior analyst at investment firm TD Ameritrade, tells Internet Retailer. China’s online retail market grew 41% in Q1, according to data released earlier by China’s National Bureau of Statistics.  

Alibaba attributes its growth in part to its expansion into new categories, such as health care and entertainment. The company also reports fast growth in such categories as automotive accessories, nutritional supplement, household products and furniture and home furnishings.

Alibaba’s international retail marketplace business, primarily AliExpress.com that enables overseas consumers to buy from Chinese sellers, booked 437 million yuan ($70 million), an increase of 53% compared to 285 million yuan in the same quarter of 2014. Alibaba did not report the value of merchandise sold on AliExpress.

However, Alibaba has been spending a lot on online ads for AliExpress in the past several months, according to a new report from web analytics company SimilarWeb Ltd. SimilarWeb says worldwide traffic to AliExpress has surpassed traffic to eBay’s global sites.

Revenue growth in the third quarter of fiscal 2015 exceeded 100% for this international unit. Alibaba attributed the slower growth in the recent quarter in part to the falling value of currencies in Russia and Brazil, two of the major markets where many consumers are shopping on AliExpress.com.

For the quarter ended March 31, Alibaba also reported:

  • Net income of 2.869 billion yuan ($463 million), a decrease of 49% from 5.661 billion yuan ($912 million). Alibaba attributed the decrease in net income to the cost of share-based compensation to employees. Without the effect of compensation, net income would have increased by 14%.

For the 2015 fiscal year ended March 31, Alibaba reported:

  • The gross merchandise value of items bought on retail marketplaces in China was 2,444 billion yuan ($394 billion), an increase of 46%, compared to 1,678 billion yuan in fiscal year 2014. GMV transacted on Taobao in fiscal year 2015 was 1,597 billion yuan ($258 billion), an increase of 36% compared to fiscal year 2014. GMV transacted on Tmall in fiscal year 2015 was 847 billion yuan ($136 billion), an increase of 68% compared to fiscal year 2014. The GMV growth was primarily driven by an increase in the number of active buyers
  • Mobile GMV was 994 billion yuan ($160 billion), an increase of 212% compared to fiscal year 2014. Mobile GMV accounted for 41% of total GMV transacted on Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces, compared to 19% in fiscal year 2014.
  • Revenue was 76,204 million yuan ($12,293 million), an increase of 45% compared to 52,504 million yuan in fiscal year 2014.
  • Net income was 24,320 million yuan (US$3,923 million), an increase of 4% compared to 23,403 million yuan in fiscal year 2014. 
 

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