Alibaba 3Q net income jumps on strong holiday season

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Alibaba is hoping its better-than-expected third-quarter results help reassure investors worried about the state of the Chinese economy.

The Chinese e-commerce powerhouse third-quarter net income jumped ahead of analyst expectations as mobile shopping continued to grow and Chinese customers snapped up items during the holidays.

The results were a reassuring sign as worries about a slowdown in the Chinese economy continue. Executives sought to put a positive spin on the China economy.

“The Chinese economy is going through a structural shift from high-growth to more moderate more sustainable growth,” said Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman. “China is still one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. We have no reason to think anything different in the foreseeable future.”

For those wondering how Alibaba’s results are being affected by the Chinese economy: “I think the strong (revenue) numbers we released today speak for themselves,” he added.

Alibaba is benefiting from a shift to mobile spending and a growth in users. Mobile spending accounted for 65 per cent of total China retail revenue, up from 30 per cent last year.

Annual active buyers rose 22 per cent to 407 million.

But investors were still spooked by any possible signs of weakness. Growth in gross merchandise volume, or the total value of items bought on Alibaba’s Chinese retail sites, rose 23 per cent, but that was slower growth than the 28 per cent rise in the prior quarter.

R.W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian said slowing gross merchandise volume could be a “potential yellow flag,” but concerns about the economy are “largely overblown.”

“Overall, we view these results as largely reinforcing a positive view of Alibaba, even in the face of a transitioning China economy,” Sebastian said.

The popular Chinese shopping holiday, Nov. 11, dubbed “Singles Day” helped boost results as well. Alibaba saw 115 million shoppers to its marketplaces including Tmall and Taobao who spent $14 billion in gross merchandise volume.

Net income for the three months ending Dec. 31 more than doubled to 12.5 billion Chinese yuan ($1.93 billion) or 4.90 yuan per share (76 cents) from 5.94 billion Chinese yuan.

Adjusted for one-time costs, net income totalled 99 cents per share. Analysts expected 89 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Alibaba Holding Ltd.’s revenue rose 32 per cent to 34.54 billion Chinese yuan ($5.33 billion) from $26.18 billion last year. That beat analyst expectations of $5.11 billion.

U.S.-traded shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. fell $2,24, or 3.2 per cent, to $67.30 in afternoon trading Thursday. Its shares are down more than 31 per cent over the past year.