Did Alibaba Earnings Rescue Its Prospects?

Alibaba Logo
Source: Courtesy of Alibaba
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) reported fourth-quarter and full-year fiscal 2015 results before markets opened Thursday. The China-based Internet giant reported adjusted diluted earnings per American depositary share (ADS) of $0.48 on revenues of $2.81 billion. Fourth-quarter results compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.42 on revenues of $2.77 billion. One ADS is equal to one ordinary share.

For the full year, Alibaba posted EPS of $2.25 on revenues of $12.29 billion. Analysts’ estimates called for EPS of $2.18 on revenues of $12.22 billion. The company began trading publicly in late September of last year, and this is just the second full quarter of operations as a publicly traded firm.

Alibaba also announced that it will have a new CEO beginning on Sunday. Daniel Zhang, currently the chief operating officer, will replace outgoing chief executive, Jonathan Lu, who will remain vice-chairman of the board. Alibaba also added a tenth member to its board of directors, Borje Ekholm, president and CEO of Sweden-based Investor AB and non-executive chairman of Nasdaq OMX.

Quarterly gross merchandise value (GMV) rose 40% to $97 billion year-over-year but fell 24% sequentially. GMV is the total value of sales transacted on Alibaba’s websites. Mobile GMV rose 157% year-over-year to $49 billion and slipped 7% sequentially.

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The number of active buyers on Alibaba’s retail marketplaces totaled 350 million at the end of March, up 37% year-over-year. Mobile active users rose 77% from 265 million at the end of December to 289 million at the end of March. Mobile revenue from the China commerce retail business rose 352% to $846 million, or 40% of the company’s total China commerce retail business.

Adjusted EBITDA margin was came in at 49% in the quarter, down from 57% in the same period last year. Alibaba attributed the drop to the consolidation of acquired businesses and to investments in new business initiatives.

Net income fell 49% year-over-year in the quarter to $463 million. The company attributed the drop to share-based compensation expenses, costs associated with new business initiatives, and higher traffic acquisition costs. The overall cost of revenue rose to 35% of revenue compared with 29% in the year-ago quarter.

CEO Lu said:

Alibaba had a strong quarter with significant growth across our key operating metrics. We grew revenue, gross merchandise volume and annual active buyers, and we expanded our unrivaled leadership position in mobile. … Our business continues to perform well, and our results highlight both the strength of our ecosystem and the strong foundation we have for sustainable future growth in China, and beyond.

Alibaba did not provide a forecast in its press release. Analysts expect earnings per ADS of $0.58 on revenues of $3.41 billion in the company’s first quarter of fiscal 2016. For the full fiscal year ending in March, consensus estimates call for earnings per ADS of $2.79 on revenues of $16.53 billion.

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Alibaba’s ADSs traded up nearly 7% in Thursday’s premarket session at $85.55 in a post-IPO range of $77.77 to $120.00. The consensus price target from Thomson Reuters was near $107 a share before today’s announcement. The high price target estimate is $136.

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