Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) stock has rewarded shareholders handsomely so far in 2019. Alibaba was founded in Apr 1999 and had its IPO in Sept 2014 — at an initial price of $92.7. On Apr. 15, the stock price closed at $183.07. In the past two decades, BABA has become a highly regarded global company, and Alibaba stock offers U.S. investors the chance to invest in the growing Chinese consumer and e-commerce markets. As its second decade ends, the group is increasingly focusing on becoming a social hub.
Although there might be volatility in BABA shares in the coming weeks as the global e-commerce platform gets ready to report earnings in early May, long-term investors may regard any upcoming dip in the stock price as an opportunity to buy into the shares. Here is why:
Alibaba Stock Has Robust Fundamentals
Online shopping represents about 35% of China’s total $5.5 trillion retail market — and BABA has a 53.3% share. Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao are China’s largest online business-to-consumer and consumer-to-consumer marketplaces respectively. One highlight from the company’s past quarter is that its mobile monthly active users (MAUs) on the e-commerce platforms have now reached 699 million.
For example, with the successful Taobao app, users share product reviews, watch webisodes, or live-stream various tutorial. As the time spent on the app increases, so does the money spent on the e-commerce marketplace.
As Alibaba gets ready to release its quarterly results in early May, investors who are seeking capital appreciation should keep in mind the company’s dominant position in the Chinese e-commerce space. In its earnings report, investors should pay attention to four areas of revenue:
- Core commerce (its largest segment which showed 40% year-over-year, YOY, growth);
- Cloud computing (which showed 84% YOY growth);
- Digital media and entertainment (which showed 20% YOY growth); and
- Innovation initiatives (which showed 73% YOY growth).
The company’s latest quarterly earnings on Jan 30 showed that BABA’s gross profit margin is over 45%. Many analysts expect its revenue to continue growing at double-digit-percentage rates, at an average of 20% annually, through both organic growth and acquisitions.
It is also important to note that much of its recent growth has been coming from less populated areas of China. At present, around half of China’s 1.4 billion citizens reside in rural areas and reaching out to these consumers has become a top priority for Alibaba.
The fact that the company is not highly leveraged also contributes to my upbeat view of Alibaba’s management and balance sheet. Its ‘current ratio’, which measures BABA’s ability to pay its short-term debt, stands at a healthy 1.25.
Although the Chinese economy may slow further in 2019 or even 2020, its GDP is still expanding at an average annual rate of 6% minimum. In other words, China’s growing middle class will continue to drive increases in the country’s consumer spending and in China’s e-commerce market. And when average Chinese citizens have more money in their pockets, more of it can be spent on online shopping sites like Alibaba.
Alibaba Is Diversifying in China
BABA’s core business of online retail contributes to 88% of revenue. However, it’s been branching out into other business ventures. This expansion is made possibly partly due to its steady free cash flow (FCF), which measures a company’s ability to produce cash. Investors care a lot about FCF as it can be used in a discretionary manner, for example, to invest in growth opportunities and to strengthen Alibaba’s balance sheet further.
The e-commerce giant now has multiple equity stakes in growth companies in a plethora of industries, such as Ant Financial, the Chinese payments giant; Ele.me, the local delivery company; and Alibaba Cloud, its cloud computing arm. The rapidly growing cloud business, which has brought in about 6% of total revenues in Q4 2018, has long-term growth potential and may help improve the company’s margins further.
Like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Alibaba is also paying considerable attention to developments in cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), two areas that will contribute to its bottom line and possibly boost BABA stock in coming years. The company announced that it is building its own AI chip to be used in various industries, such as self-driving cars.
In its efforts to become a hybrid e-commerce platform that offers social shopping experiences to customers, especially to the tech-savvy youth, Alibaba has been increasing its exposure to social media platforms. For example, it owns 31% of Weibo (NASDAQ:WB), the Chinese microblogging company.
Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace has recently taken an 8% stake in Chinese anime streaming and entertainment company Bilibili (NASDAQ:BILI) whose users have an average age of 21. The company, which has about 92 million monthly active users, “covers genres and media formats, including videos, live broadcasting, and mobile games.” Through this acquisition, Alibaba opens the door to reaching the Gen Z market in China better.
BABA’s Youku is now the third biggest video streamer in China, behind Tencent Holdings (OTCMKTS:TCEHY) and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU). And Alibaba is not shy to invest in the platform to create new content and bring in new subscribers so that it can increase its 22% share in the Chinese video streaming market.
Finally, as China increasingly moves into a cashless society, the group’s mobile platform, Alipay, is likely to grow exponentially. The digital wallet has already hit 1 billion users in more than 110 countries worldwide. In other words, investors are hopeful that these new ventures will become significant revenue contributors soon.
BABA’s International Growth Looks Promising
In addition to its ever-growing presence in China, BABA has investments in start-ups in South Asia and Southeast Asia, too. Southeast Asia is en route to becoming the world’s fourth largest economic region by GDP and analysts expect its e-commerce sector to expand tremendously within the next decade.
The “Amazon of the East” has also set its eyes on moving west through partnerships with European companies, including Vodafone Group (NASDAQ:VOD) in Germany and El Corte Ingles in Spain. Many European companies are still discovering new ways to enter the Chinese market, and BABA may enable them to connect with Chinese customers faster. BABA’s mobile payment network, Alipay, is also looking to expand in Europe.
Such international growth will not only help increase the company’s bottom line, but it will also enable BABA to diversify away from China, lowering the macro risk facing BABA stock.
Is It Time to Invest in BABA Stock?
The answer depends on your investment style and horizon, i.e., whether you are a short-term trader or a long-term-growth investor. BABA stock is a compelling long-term investment. I also believe that most of the adverse effects of the U.S.-China trade war have already been priced into Alibaba stock. If the two sides reach a deal that’s seen in a positive light this year, BABA stock is likely to rally.
Yet, the markets are likely to continue to be choppy in April and May, especially since many other tech heavyweights are expected to release their quarterly reports. The volatility of Alibaba stock is high, giving it a broad trading range, so short-term traders should proceed with caution in the coming weeks.
As a result of the recent impressive run-up in the stock price, short-term technical indicators have become somewhat over-extended. Investors who pay attention to short-term oscillators should note that BABA’s professional message has also become “overbought.” So, in the next few weeks, there might be some profit taking in Alibaba stock.
The Bottom Line on Alibaba Stock
Alibaba’s growth in e-commerce, cloud computing, and other investments throughout China and globally make it a disruptor and a sound and long-term investment. 2019 has given Wall Street a glimpse of how great BABA’s comeback could be as, year-to-date, the stock is up 33%.
Therefore long-term investors could view any decline in the BABA stock price as an opportunity to buy the stock. By the end of 2020, I expect the stock to reach $230.
However, traders with a short-term horizon should remember that there might be some profit-taking in the stock around the earnings report.
As of this writing, Tezcan Gecgil did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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