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Under-Pressure Alibaba Sees Quarterly Profits Tumble

The shares of Alibaba crashed by nearly 7% on Thursday to an all-time low in Hong Kong ahead of publication of the company’s October-December third quarter results.

The company is one of a small handful of entrepreneurial tech giants that have remade everyday life for a billion Chinese consumers and facilitated tens of millions of small businesses. But it remains in the crosshairs of the Chinese government’s regulatory quest to remake things again in a more controlled and top-down socialist manner.

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Regulators have recently sought yet more controls over the group’s pariah status financial arm Ant Group and in recent days have called for home delivery fees to be slashed in e-commerce and food services, directly hitting Alibaba’s Eleme unit.

U.S. regulators added Alibaba’s AliExpress (and rival Tencent’s WeChat e-commerce site) to their list of notorious markets which do not do enough to limit trade in pirated goods. Alibaba’s Taobao was already on the list.

And the group also faces macro-economic forces, as the Chinese economy slowed dramatically in the fourth quarter of the 2021 calendar year. These caused Alibaba to cut its 2021-22 guidance and for financial analyst to trim their guidance for the full year to March 2022.

As a result, year-on-year Alibaba’s quarterly profits were forecast by some brokers to drop by some 50-60%.

In the end the figures were not so dire. Revenue in the quarter was RMB242 billion ($38.1 billion), an increase of 10% year-over-year. The massive China commerce segment grew by only7% year-over-year, but international businesses and cloud computing put in double digit revenue gains.

Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders was RMB20.4 billion ($3.21 billion) and net income was RMB19.2 billion ($3.02 billion), showing year-over-year decreases of 74% and 75%, respectively. These it attributed largely to the impairment of goodwill of $3.95 billion and changes in fair value of its equity investments. On the group’s preferred non-GAAP accounting standard those things are excluded, allowing Alibaba to claim non-GAAP net income of RMB44.6 billion ($7.00 billion), a decrease of 25% year-over-year.

On another key measure, global annual active consumers, Alibaba added 43 million customers in the quarter, for a total of 1.28 billion.

Year-on year the digital and media entertainment segment showed little change. Revenues were RMB8.11 billion or $1.29 billion, up 1%. EBITDA losses were also barely changed at RMB1.37 billion ($217 million).

Streaming service Youku’s daily average subscribers base increased 14% year-over-year “driven by competitive membership pricing and continued contribution from the 88VIP membership program,” the group said. “Youku continues to improve operational efficiency through disciplined investment in content and production capability, which resulted in narrowing of losses year-over-year during the quarter.”

Ahead of the results the shares in Hong Kong finished Thursday trading, down 6.7% at HK$104.90 apiece. The group’s New York-traded ADR shares were down 2.8% in Wednesday trading, finishing at $109.72. New York’s pre-market indicated a further fall of more than 4% to $104.42 when Thursday trading begins.

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