Update: August 11, 2016. Okay, the top line numbers were impressive. Today Alibaba Group Holding (BABA) reported a 59% increase in revenue for its June quarter.
But for the first time Alibaba provided segment details on its various businesses–due at least in part to pressure from the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. And that breakdown holds even better news than the top line numbers for the company as a whole.
Before I move onto a deeper look at the segment breakdown, let me take a glance at the top line numbers for Alibaba. The total revenue growth of 59% was well ahead of Alibaba’s guidance for a 48% increase. The number of active buyers on Alibaba’s e-commerce site rose 18% to 434 million. That’s about one-third of China’s total population. The company’s ability to monetize those users also rose in the quarter–the company’s figures argue for a 50 basis increase in monetarization. And of the first time monetarization on mobile devices exceeded that from desktop computers.
In recent quarters Alibaba has spent billions to move deeper into online content, to add cloud computing services, and to expand into international markets. This quarter’s segment breakdowns show that each of those efforts is still losing money–as anticipated–but that healthy revenue growth in those areas has produced an Alibaba that is much less dependent on China’s economic growth. For example, cloud computing, where Alibaba has targeted taking the No. 1 position in Japan within two years, increased its base of paying customers to 577,000, resulting in a 156% jump in revenue. The cloud computing unit cut its losses in half and is approaching break even, Alibaba said. The operating loss for the quarter came to 439 million yuan versus a loss of 553 million yuan in the June quarter of 2015. Operating margins of 20% are equivalent to margins in Amazon’s cloud business.
Revenue from media and entertainment–where Alibaba spent heavily to acquire video website YouKu Tudou–rose almost four-fold to 3.1 billion yuan ($470 million.) Losses from the entertainment and media unit doubled in the quarter as Alibaba joined the race to add more content its media offerings. International revenue, driven by the company’s purchase of Lazada Group and the consequent gain in market share in Southeast Asia, doubled in the quarter. Retail e-commerce from China accounted for just 73% of Alibaba’s revenue in the quarter.
Not that Alibaba did badly in its core Chinese e-commerce business. Alibaba’s shopping services–including the Taobao online marketplace–saw a 47% increase in revenue.
This earnings report had something for every investor worried about Alibaba’s future growth. The numbers showed that the company could still score big growth in China despite a slowing Chinese economy. They showed that the company’s diversification efforts were succeeding–reducing Alibaba’s dependence on the Chinese market. And they showed that in cloud computer, international markets, and media Alibaba still has plenty of growth opportunities ahead of it.
The New York traded ADRs closed up 5.08% today to $91.77.
Alibaba is a member of my Jubak Picks portfolio. The ADRs are up 20.35% since I added them to that portfolio at $76.25 on October 26, 2015.
Valuing Alibaba is difficult because the stock trades on forecasts of future growth. My current target price on the shares is $95. Before I move that target up, I’d like to see how the ADRs behave as they approach the May 2015 high of $93.88. A failure at that level is certainly a danger but a break through that resistance would clear the way for further run in the price.