People walk past an entrance at the Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou, China, May 8 2021. Picture: QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG
People walk past an entrance at the Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou, China, May 8 2021. Picture: QILAI SHEN/BLOOMBERG

Shanghai — China’s top e-commerce platform Alibaba Group on Thursday posted its first quarterly operating loss since going public in 2014 due to a record anti-monopoly fine by the country's market regulator.

Its US-listed shares fell nearly 3% in choppy trading, even as the company forecast strong 2022 revenue, betting that the pandemic-driven shift to online shopping will remain resilient.

The outlook, however, was overshadowed by a regulatory crackdown in China that led to the suspension of a $37bn IPO of affiliate Ant Group and a $2.8bn fine in April for anticompetitive business practices.

The fine led to a 7.66-billion yuan ($1.19bn) operating loss in the fourth quarter ended March 31.

“The penalty decision motivated us to reflect on the relationship between a platform economy and society, as well as our social responsibilities and commitments,” CEO Daniel Zhang said in an earnings call.

Alibaba forecast annual revenue of 930-billion yuan ($144.12bn) for the year ending March 2022, above expectation of 928.25-billion yuan.

Core commerce revenue rose 72% to 161.37-billion yuan in the fourth quarter. But growth at its cloud computing unit slowed to 37% to 16.8-billion yuan from 58% a year earlier, its weakest since at least 2016.

Alibaba said it was due to a top customer with a “sizeable presence outside China” ending its business for “non-product related reasons”.

Overall revenue rose to 187.4-billion yuan in the fourth quarter, topping a Refinitiv forecast of 180.41-billion yuan.

Alibaba’s US listed shares have fallen more than 30% since hitting a record high in late October when its founder Jack Ma delivered a speech in Shanghai criticising China’s financial regulators.

The sinking share price reflects investor anxiety over regulation, said Brock Silvers, chief investment officer at Hong Kong-based Adamas Asset Management.

“The company has faced rogue waves of regulatory risk, which now threaten the entire tech sector.”

Reuters  

subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.