|Bid||255.000 x 0|
|Ask||255.200 x 0|
|Day's Range||251.000 - 262.600|
|52 Week Range||113.000 - 460.000|
|Beta (5Y Monthly)||1.02|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||N/A|
|Earnings Date||Mar 26, 2021|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||N/A (N/A)|
|1y Target Est||N/A|
(Bloomberg) -- Has the storm passed for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.?That will be the question for executives and investors as the Chinese e-commerce giant reports earnings on Thursday in the wake of a government crackdown on co-founder Jack Ma’s empire. Profit and revenue for the quarter are sure to be less consequential than any concrete evidence about whether the regulatory issues are resolved.Alibaba has agreed to a record $2.8 billion penalty from Beijing and vowed to change certain practices deemed anti-competitive, including a requirement that merchant sell exclusively on its platforms or not at all. Executives also thanked regulators and pledged to support merchants -- all in a bid to put the regulator troubles behind it.On Monday, Alibaba held its annual staff and family event at its sprawling Hangzhou campus, where kids played in ball pits and drew doodles while the company’s animal mascots posed for photos with employees in cosplay outfits. Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang hosted a wedding ceremony for dozens of young couples, according to a corporate video. “No matter when you have good times or challenges, let’s have passion and love, and make our lives and work better,” he told them. Ma was spotted in a blue t-shirt at the festivities, according to photos online, making a rare appearance following a period of enforced hibernation during the worst of Alibaba’s troubles.But several key issues remain unresolved. Alibaba’s finance affiliate, Ant Group Co., is still wrangling with regulators over its future. Beijing is debating how it will regulate the use of data, which is core to Alibaba’s competitive advantage. And finally, the government is considering whether to compel Alibaba to shed media assets, which have supported its brand -- and Ma’s. The firm has lost roughly $260 billion in value since rising to a record in late October. Its Hong Kong shares rose as much as 4.4% Wednesday, paring losses since the fine was announced to about 1%.For the record, the financial results are expected to be strong. Revenue for the March quarter is projected to rise 58% to 180.4 billion yuan ($28 billion) -- recovering from a Covid low -- although net income will take a hit from the fine. Here are the key things investors will quiz management about.Ant’s Uncertain FutureAlibaba owns a third of Ant, the company at the center of Beijing’s fintech crackdown. Its report card this week will provide a peek into how the affiliate performed during the three months ended December -- when its record initial public offering was called off as regulatory scrutiny swung into high gear -- as the fintech firm’s results lag one quarter behind Alibaba.Just days after the antitrust watchdog handed down its fine on Alibaba, financial regulators ordered Ant to turn itself into a financial holding company that will effectively be supervised more like a bank. The company will need to open its payments app to competitors, increase oversight of how that business fuels its profitable consumer lending operations and cut the outstanding value of its money-market fund Yu’ebao.That overhaul has already prompted some investors including Fidelity Investments and Warburg Pincus to slash their valuation estimates for Ant, which had once targeted a record $35 billion for its dual listings in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Now, the firm’s value could plummet to as low as $29 billion from $320 billion previously, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Francis Chan.Data HordeChina’s crackdown on its internet behemoths extend well beyond rooting out practices like forced exclusivity agreements and predatory pricing. Attempts to loosen the stranglehold of Alibaba and its peers over the vast reams of data they’ve accumulated may have even more far-reaching implications and the government is said to be exploring a number of models and actions to force the corporations into opening up their data hoards.Beijing is pouring money into digital infrastructure, drafting new laws on data usage and building new data centers around the country with the goal of positioning China as a leader in transforming the world economy over the next few decades. Xi Jinping declared his intention in March to go after “platform” companies that amass data to refine their services and create better products that allowed them to create natural monopolies that squeeze out smaller competitors.Read more: Xi’s Next Target in Tech Crackdown Is China’s Vast Reams of DataMedia and DealsLike other Chinese tech giants, Ma’s firm has previously carried out a series of mega mergers and acquisitions through a so-called Variable Interest Entity Structure, which operated on shaky legal grounds. That practice has now come under scrutiny from the State Administration for Market Regulation, which began reviewing years-old deals. Since December, it’s issued a series of fines to firms for not seeking antitrust clearance, a move that may chill future dealmaking and hamper Alibaba’s ability to gobble up promising startups or simply buy out competitors that threaten its dominance.Alibaba was ordered in December to pay 500,000 yuan in December for a 2017 deal involving its stake in department store operator Intime Retail Group Co. Other such deals may also come under the spotlight, including its takeover of food-delivery service Ele.me and investment in hypermart operator Sun Art Retail Group Ltd. In the worst-case scenario, Alibaba could be forced to unwind those investments, if they’re found to have violated anti-monopoly laws.Meanwhile, the Chinese government wants Alibaba to sell some of its media assets, including the South China Morning Post, because of growing concerns about the technology giant’s influence over public opinion in the country, a person familiar with the matter has said. The company has a major stake in the Twitter-like Weibo and owns Youku, one of China’s biggest streaming services, as well as the SCMP, the leading English-language newspaper in Hong Kong.Moving OnFor Alibaba, the $2.8 billion fine was less severe than many feared and helps lift a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Ma’s empire. Following the fine, Vice Chairman Joseph Tsai told investors the company was “happy to get the matter behind us,” and that it’s unaware of any other probes into its businesses.Now, the attentions of Beijing appear to be turning to its rivals. Days after bringing the Hangzhou-based giant to heel, the antitrust watchdog summoned 34 of the country’s most influential tech firms and ordered them to learn from Alibaba’s example. They were told to pledge compliance with regulations and given one month to rectify their business practices, a deadline that expires this week.Food delivery behemoth Meituan has been the most visible target. Authorities announced in April they were beginning a probe into for alleged abuses like forced exclusivity, the same charges leveled against Ma’s firm. The food delivery firm and fast-growing Pinduoduo Inc., which recently over took Alibaba in annual users for the first time, were also criticized by the Shanghai Consumers Council this week for hurting consumer rights.Meanwhile, Beijing is preparing to slap a fine of at least $1.6 billion on Tencent Holdings Ltd., Reuters has reported, adding that its music streaming business is under particular scrutiny. Financial regulators also see Asia’s largest company as deserving increased supervision after the clamp down on Ant, people with knowledge of their thinking told Bloomberg in March.“The fine on Alibaba -- although a record high -- is manageable for the company and demonstrates that Beijing seeks change and not disruption, in our view,” UBS Global Wealth Management Chief Investment Office said in its May report. “It also gives a glimpse into what other firms under the regulatory microscope can expect in terms of penalty amount and restructuring changes.”(Updates shares in fifth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- It took just 28 Chinese characters on an obscure social media platform to ignite a controversy that’s rattled the country’s tech industry.Meituan CEO Wang Xing lost $2.5 billion of his wealth over two days after he posted verses from a millennium-old poem about the misguided attempts of China’s first emperor to quash dissent. Wang, a usually plain-speaking engineer who enjoys literary classics, later scrubbed his post and explained he was really calling out the short-sightedness of his own industry, trying to clarify there was no implied criticism of the government. But the damage was done: Meituan shed $26 billion over two days, the biggest loser in a broader tech rout, before bouncing back as much as 4.3% Wednesday.The seemingly extreme reaction to Wang’s post underscores how much markets remain on edge months after Beijing launched a crackdown against the twin pillars of Jack Ma’s internet empire, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Ant Group Co. While far more succinct, Wang’s utterances recalled for some investors Ma’s own ill-timed comments in a public forum, which torpedoed Ant’s $35 billion IPO before igniting a wide-ranging campaign to rein in the country’s increasingly powerful -- and vocal -- corporate chieftains.Tellingly, most of the resultant frenzy of online speculation centered on Meituan’s -- and Wang’s -- fate. Regulators had only just chosen the gig-economy giant as the subject of their second major investigation after fining Alibaba $2.8 billion for alleged monopolistic behavior. While evocative, the poem offered far from conclusive evidence of Wang’s intentions or thinking. Part of it read: “Before the ashes turned cold, rebellion had arisen east of the mountains.” Yet it was his timing that may rankle officials already examining issues from worker compensation and benefits to its competitive tactics.“He didn’t win any points with regulators by posting, but the problem is that some important facets of the business environment have now turned against him,” said Brock Silvers, chief investment officer of private equity firm Kaiyuan Capital in Hong Kong. “That may have an impact long after the poem is forgotten.”Regardless of Wang’s motivations, regulators have Meituan in their sights. Wang is one of a handful of entrepreneurs considered successors to industry pioneers like Ma, and also one of their fiercest rivals. The 42-year-old entrepreneur raised a record $10 billion just last month to develop promising technologies to spearhead an aggressive expansion into online groceries. He still owns about 11% of Meituan, a stake worth about $18.4 billion as of Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That means his fortune has shrunk by some $15 billion from a peak in February to the close of May 11.Over the past six months, China’s antitrust watchdog has rolled out a plethora of laws giving it greater oversight of the internet sphere, wary of the influence companies like Alibaba and Meituan wield over many facets of Chinese life. Beijing is said to be exploring ways to further curtail their control of valuable personal data and media. But among the internet giants, it’s Meituan, the world’s largest food delivery service, that perhaps has come under heaviest public scrutiny during the pandemic.Even before Wang’s post, state media had run regular exposes describing the plight of Meituan’s delivery drivers, helping stoke online outrage. The deaths of several delivery personnel in the rush to meet deadlines drew accusations of exploitation and sparked a debate about the treatment of gig-economy contract employees -- much as it had in the U.S. years earlier.In one of the most recent efforts, Beijing TV aired a documentary in which a social security official moon-lit as a delivery driver -- reportedly earning 41 yuan ($6) for 12 hours of work. He later told the Communist Party-affiliated Beijing News his experience drove home the unreasonable demands placed on millions of riders nationwide who helped feed China during the pandemic. Other media have called out the industry’s preoccupation with growing grocery deliveries instead of driving innovation.In response, Meituan has pledged to improve welfare and benefits as well as tweak algorithms to allow more time for delivery. But on Tuesday, Bernstein slashed its target price on the company by 21%, arguing that the rising cost of paying and covering its army of workers will compound a tougher regulatory environment and pummel the bottom line.Elon Musk? China’s Billionaires Aren’t Poets Either: Shuli RenThe criticism didn’t stop at Meituan’s core business. Its community commerce arm was among a handful of operators penalized in March for excessive subsidies, alongside units of Pinduoduo Inc. and car-hailing giant Didi Chuxing. In January, it shut down its crowd-sourced health insurance service after regulators tightened scrutiny over online insurance. Even the Shanghai Consumer Council chimed in this week, blasting Meituan for a broken refunds system and misleading content on its mobile app.What happens next remains a subject of intense debate. While Ma, after a period of enforced hibernation, is once again showing up in public, many of his compatriots have in past months been careful to maintain a low profile precisely because of the volatile environment.That makes Wang’s seeming faux pas even more puzzling. What’s clear is the entrepreneur chose one of his earliest creations and subsequent failures as his forum, the Twitter-like Fanfou. The service was in fact suspended in 2009 for failing to keep up with government censorship requirements, which is why Wang said in 2019 he decided “to do something less controversial.”Yet it remains open to original users like Wang, who for years jotted down his musings on everything from Western literature to random trivia and, of course, Chinese poetry.“Whether they mean to or not, any implied criticism of the regulation of their respective industries is not helpful to them or their shareholders,” said Gary Dugan, chief executive officer of the asset management firm Global CIO Office in Singapore. “Any investor in single stock names in China at present would hope that they do less social media philosophizing about the future and just focus on managing their businesses.”(Updates with share action from the second paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
The headlines about SoftBank in 2020 were often gloomy but today the Japanese company could surpass Microsoft to become the third most profitable company in the world. Also, don’t miss how Coinbase’s blockbuster IPO is energising Asia’s crypto scene.Take care till next week.