E-commerce giant -- and the second most valuable public company in Asia after Tencent -- Alibaba Group’s quarterly report confirmed record slow growth. Third-quarter revenue notched 117.28 billion yuan ($17.47 billion), compared with 83 billion yuan a year earlier — owing to the weakening impact of Chinese economy and a damaging Sino-U.S trade war.
Alibaba’s sales are often considered a benchmark to evaluate consumer spending across the world, and diminishing sales are concerning for investors, as they are proof of the pressures the company is facing.
However, net income rose 33% to 30.96 billion yuan, beating forecasts and sending Alibaba's stock up by about 1.6% in pre-market trade.
Typically, Alibaba’s highest sales come from its biggest online sales event, "Singles' Day," that even surpasses the combined sales figure of U.S.’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. But in 2018, despite the company netting record $30 billion from the Singles' Day, its annual growth dropped to the weakest rate in the event's 10-year history owing to a slowing Chinese economy and trade tensions.
However, Alibaba’s executive vice-chairman, Joe Tsai explained that sales did rise in December and that Chinese customers are less susceptible to external factors like trade tensions impacting their buying decisions. But with the slowing demand for big-ticket items, the company has already lowered its revenue outlook for its financial year ending March even before the top sales season.
In its effort to grow outside of its core e-commerce business, and to win new customers, the company continued to invest heavily in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and online entertainment. The result: revenue from its cloud business rose 84% to 6.6 billion yuan, while sales from its digital entertainment and media business rose 20% to 6.5 billion yuan.