Alibaba could show big earnings from 11.11 shopping event, but regulatory concerns increasing

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will look for some redemption Tuesday after a tough few months.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will look for some redemption Tuesday after a tough few months.

The Chinese e-commerce giant’s earnings report will offer a glimpse at how the company was able to cash in on 11.11, its biggest shopping event of the year. Alibaba
already disclosed that it the value of merchandise purchased during the multiday shopping festival totaled $74.1 billion, up 26{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} from a year earlier, but the Tuesday morning report will show how that paid off financially.

While 11.11 was the high point of Alibaba’s fiscal third quarter, it’s worth watching for clues about what happened afterward. Chinese government data on general online sales and parcel shipments indicate a deceleration in December.

“We note that the extended 11.11 holiday likely pulled forward some demand from December, which dampened growth for the month in the core commerce segment,” Baird analyst Colin Sebastian wrote.

Alibaba has maintained that the pandemic could help drive long-term trends beneficial to its business as more people became introduced to digital shopping and more during the crisis. Look for the company’s commentary about uptake in lower-tier Chinese cities, which have been slower to adopt e-commerce.

The coming report is likely to show the growing power of Alibaba’s empire, though that same power has drawn the scrutiny of Chinese regulators. China’s market regulator said in December that it would conduct an antimonopoly investigation into Alibaba, a move that pressured Alibaba’s U.S.-listed shares, which are down 14{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} since the company’s last earnings report as the S&P 500
has risen 10{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38}.

Chinese regulators are also cracking down on Ant Group, the financial services company controlled by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma. Ant reportedly plans to become a financial holding company overseen by the Chinese central bank following regulatory pressure that forced the company to scrap a planned initial public offering that may have valued the company at more than $300 billion. Alibaba has a 33{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} stake in Ant Group.

What to expect

Revenue: Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect that Alibaba generated RMB214.2 billion, ($33.1 billion) in the December quarter, up from RMB161.5 billion a year earlier.

Earnings: The FactSet consensus calls for RMB20.78 in adjusted earnings per share in the latest period, up from RMB18.19 a year prior.

Stock movement: Though Alibaba shares are down 14{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} since the company’s last earnings report, they’ve gained 9{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} so far this year. Alibaba shares have fallen on the day of the company’s past five earnings reports.

Of the 52 analysts tracked by FactSet who cover Alibaba shares, 49 have buy ratings and three have hold ratings, with an average price target of $329.07.

What else to watch for

One important trend for Alibaba investors is how the company is balancing profits against investment spending as the company pushes into emerging areas like live streaming, expansion into less-developed cities, and a greater merging of offline and online commerce in part through grocery stores.

Read: Alibaba gets its Whole Foods with new $3.6 billion investment in Chinese supermarket operator

Truist Securities analyst Youssef Squali expects Alibaba’s earnings margin before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) to be 32{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} for the December quarter, and improvement from the September quarter but below what it was in June and last December, “reflecting scale leverage but a higher sustained level of investments.”

He has a buy rating and $326 price target on Alibaba shares.

Stifel analyst Scott Devitt wrote that “online demand remains elevated,” which he believes helped Alibaba record 22{409126f2c1f09c9e510a010c163a4bce2c3ccfc4019bdf864d6cb2d5d8752f38} growth in customer-management revenue during the latest quarter. An improvement in spending categories like apparel could have helped that growth, he said.

Devitt has a buy rating and $330 target price on the shares.