China's Alibaba profit tumbles 86% though revenue beats estimates

Illustration shows Alibaba logo

By Casey Hall and Akash Sriram

(Reuters) -China's Alibaba Group Holding reported an 86% plunge in fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday primarily due to valuation changes from equity investments, pushing its U.S.-listed shares down almost 6% in early trading though revenue beat forecasts.

It also announced it would revive a plan first floated in 2022 to upgrade its secondary listing in Hong Kong to a primary listing, while retaining its primary listing in New York. It aims to complete this dual-primary listing by August.

China's largest e-commerce group by market share has had a tumultuous year since announcing the biggest shake-up in its 25-year history in March last year, splitting into six units and refocusing on its core businesses, including domestic e-commerce.

Consumers in China have also been spending carefully after the COVID-19 pandemic amid an economic slowdown and prolonged property slump.

Alibaba's focus on low-cost goods in response to the cautious consumer spending helped boost domestic e-commerce sales, driving 7% growth in overall revenue in the quarter to March 31.

Group net income, however was 3.27 billion yuan ($452 million), compared with 23.52 billion yuan a year ago.

Alibaba shares were down 5.6% in early New York trading.

Chairman Joe Tsai told analysts in a post-earnings call that the company was seeing "early signs" of growing confidence.

"We have seen green shoots in some discretionary items like apparel and electronics," he said. "We know Chinese consumers have the ability to spend, but that willingness to spend reflects their confidence about the future."


Quarterly revenue at its domestic commerce arm, Taobao and Tmall Group, increased 4% year-on-year with order volume increasing double-digits.

Alibaba's domestic commerce revenue in recent quarters has been overshadowed by blockbuster growth for low-price and dicount-focused platforms such as PDD Holdings' Pinduoduo and ByteDance-owned Douyin.

"Taobao and Tmall's strong GMV and order growth is especially impressive given challenges from competitors and markets conditions," said Jacob Cooke, CEO of e-commerce consultancy WPIC Marketing + Technologies.

The group reported revenue of 221.87 billion yuan in the three months ended March 31, compared with a consensus estimate of 219.66 billion yuan, according to LSEG data.

Analysts expected strong growth from Alibaba's international digital commerce arm, given its investments in building global market share and appetite among global consumers for low-cost goods from China.

The segment delivered with 45% growth, compared with an expected 39% revenue rise, according to LSEG data. It also saw losses nearly double to 4.1 billion yuan ($567 million) from 2.2 billion a year ago as it invested heavily to remain price competitive and shorten delivery times.

The group's other "core" business, its cloud division, saw AI-related revenue from external customers, a relatively new business, grew at triple-digits year-on-year.

($1 = 7.2336 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru and Casey Hall in Shanghai; Editing by Sonali Paul, Arun Koyyur and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)