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Barclays Analyst Weighs in on 3 Chinese eCommerce Stocks

It’s no secret that the Chinese eCommerce segment has developed into a burgeoning market. According to a recent Barclays report from analyst Gregory Zhao, the country’s large population and increasing disposable incomes suggest that its current penetration rate of 24% only stands to rise.

Amid this backdrop, a new era of eCommerce is being ushered in. Zhao deems the resulting market structure a “three-kingdom phase”.

“Competition has become less about user traffic, with the focus now turning to the evolution of ecosystems, with value added services like payment, logistics, media content, marketing solutions, and offline retail integration. Based on this, Alibaba is still our preferred name in the space,” he stated. In the report, the 1.5-star analyst provides his take on Alibaba (BABA) and 2 other Chinese eCommerce Stocks.

Let’s take a closer look at what the analyst had to say about each.

JD.com Inc. (JD)

JD has managed to pull off quite the turnaround.

The company has demonstrated significant margin improvement in its last few quarters thanks to an investment in expanding its geographic operations and optimizing warehouse logistics with robotics. While this investment had a negative impact on margins in the short-term, JD is now on the right track with margins expanding by 60 bps in Q2 vs 20 bps in the previous quarter. Revenue growth has also stabilized, with it gaining 23% from the prior-year quarter.

Not to mention JD is starting to embrace the team-buy model and prioritize its direct access to users on WeChat to acquire long-tail users, in order to combat the slower user growth it saw in the second half of 2018. Zhao notes that this should benefit ads and commission revenue growth on its marketplace.

That being said, the eCommerce company still has a long way to go.

“While new initiatives such as logistics and tech services provide another avenue for growth, we think the above positives have been fairly reflected in the consensus and stock price during the re-rating post 2Q earnings. In addition, while JD focuses on the retail market, it may miss some significant opportunities such as in Cloud and payment,” Zhao explained. As a result, the analyst initiated coverage with a Hold and set a $36 price target on August 19. His price target suggests shares could gain 15% over the next twelve months, with the stock already up 4% in the last five days.

The rest of the Street takes a slightly more optimistic stance on JD. It has a ‘Moderate Buy’ analyst consensus and a $37 average price target, implying 21% upside potential.

Pinduoduo Inc. (PDD)

This Chinese eCommerce stock has made substantial headway in its efforts to gain market share with its unique team-buy social-eCommerce marketplace model. Its platform allows users to share product information on social media networks like WeChat and QQ as well as form shopping teams to get a lower prices on their purchases.

“We prefer PDD to JD, in addition to PDD's better use of social network resources, we view a larger monetization potential during its move toward high-end markets,” Zhao noted.

This strategy appears to be paying off for PDD. According to its August 21 Q2 earnings release, monthly active users rose by 88% from the year-ago quarter to reach 366 million.

Management attributed this growth to company’s user-first strategy as well as its shopping festival campaign. The company also highlighted the fact that customers have been impressed with PDD’s move up to large-ticket items, its effort to improve the brand image and stock keeping unit expansion into branded products.

However, it should be noted that PDD reported operating loss more than doubled to RMB1.5 billion ($212.4 million) compared to RMB6.6 million ($934,500) in the prior-year quarter.     

Even with this loss, the Barclays analyst believes PDD’s strategy will drive sustainable long-term growth. “While the Street is concerned about PDD's profitability in intensive marketing, we regard this investment as necessary at the current stage. In the long run, we expect upside in its ARPU and take rate during its expansion into the high-end market, along with an improving margin profile,” Zhao explained. Based on all of the above factors, he initiated coverage with a Buy and set a $32 price target on August 19. The analyst believes share prices could surge 6% over the next twelve months. This is on top of the 28% growth the company has seen over the last five days.

All in all, the consensus among analysts is that PDD is a ‘Moderate Buy’. Its $27 price target suggests 11% downside.

Alibaba Group (BABA)  

It’s easy to see why the last stock on our list is widely considered to be the China equivalent of eBay (EBAY) and Amazon (AMZN). With 55% market share, Alibaba has cemented itself as the top player in the space.

BABA’s “new retail” strategy centers around combining the best of both online and offline commerce to provide a shopping experience for the customer. The company creates this experience through three main eCommerce sites: Alibaba.com, its international trade site, Taobao, a Chinese online shopping website and Tmall, a Chinese-language website for business-to-consumer online retail.

So far, investors like what they see. On August 15, BABA reported revenue of RMB114.9 billion ($16.7 billion) or a 42% year-over-year gain. Adding to the good news, user acquisition programs which deepened its penetration into less developed areas drove a 20 million increase in annual active users.

By no means is the company stopping there. BABA’s cloud products alone generated RMB7.8 billion ($1.1 billion) in quarterly revenue, up 66% year-over-year thanks to the launch of over 300 new products and features in Q2. The company is also expanding its product offerings to include digital payments, online entertainment and food delivery.

Based on all of these positive developments, Zhao points to BABA as most poised to outperform. “Alibaba is still our preferred name in the space, given its top market position, attractive valuation and monetization perspective,” he explained. As a result, he reiterated his Buy rating and $225 price target. With shares already climbing 8% in the last five days, the analyst sees even more upside as his price target suggests 28% upside.

Wall Street mirrors Zhao’s sentiment, with the consensus among analysts being that BABA is a ‘Strong Buy’. Its $224 average price target suggests 28% upside potential.