Why Alibaba Earnings Might Have Nowhere to Go but Up

May 4, 2018 by Paul Ausick

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) reported fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 results before markets opened Friday. The China-based internet giant reported adjusted diluted earnings per American depositary share (ADS) of $0.91 on revenues of $9.87 billion. That compares to earnings per ADS of $0.69 and revenues of $6.09 billion in the same period a year ago. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for earnings of $0.86 per ADS on revenues of $9.27 billion.

One ADS is equal to one ordinary share, and the exchange rate used is based on 6.2726 yuan per dollar.

For the full year, Alibaba reported earnings per ADS of $5.24 and revenues of $39.9 billion. In the prior year, the company reported earnings of $3.70 per ADS and revenues of $24.98 billion. Analysts were looking for $5.20 per ADS and $38.95 billion.

The number of annual active buyers on Alibaba’s retail marketplaces totaled 552 million at the end of the fourth quarter, up by 98 million (21.5%) year over year. Monthly mobile active users rose from 507 million last year to 617 million (up 21.7%) at the end of March. The company’s core commerce revenues rose by 60% year over year, the cloud-computing segment revenues rose by 101%, digital media and entertainment segment revenues rose 33% and other revenues increased by 10%.

The company’s chief financial officer, Maggie Wu, said:

Looking ahead to fiscal 2019, we expect overall revenue growth above 60%, reflecting our confidence in our core business as well as positive momentum in new businesses. We expect our new growth initiatives will drive long-term, sustainable value for our customers and partners and increase our total addressable market.

Alibaba did not provide a detailed forecast in its press release. Analysts expect earnings per ADS of $1.40 on revenues of $11.65 billion in the company’s first fiscal quarter of 2019. For the full fiscal year ending next March, consensus estimates call for earnings per ADS of $6.54 on revenues of $54.48 billion. That estimate is well short of the 60% growth Wu is predicting — about $9 billion short.

Alibaba’s ADSs traded up around 2% in Friday’s premarket session, at $186.12 in a 52-week range of $114.00 to $206.20. The consensus 12-month price target was $217.63 per ADS before this morning’s announcement. The high price target estimate is $257.51.