Alibaba beats on revenue, thanks to strong online shopping in China

Alibaba quarterly profits almost double to $1.55

China's e-commerce giant said revenue jumped about 60 percent to 38.58 billion yuan ($5.60 billion) in the first quarter, boosted by new business such as cloud computing and entertainment. The firm's New York Stock Exchange-listed shares fell at the market open, but slowly recovered throughout the day to down less than one per cent in after-hours trading. For the full fiscal year 2017, operating loss from cloud computing was US$244 million and adjusted EBITA loss was US$69 million.

"The March quarter is usually a slow season for e-commerce so margins usually come down a bit", Ray Zhao, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co., told Bloomberg. "Alibaba is spending a lot to drive growth in video and entertainment".

E-commerce is bucking a slowdown in China's wider economy by appealing to a growing middle class demanding premium products from Alaskan salmon to New Zealand milk. Growing Chinese affluence is propelling billionaire founder Jack Ma's worldwide expansion, which include helping a million American businesses tap Chinese consumers and reaching foreign shoppers through AliExpress.

Alibaba's adjusted earnings per share (EPS) came in at 4.35 yuan ($0.63), below estimates of 4.48 yuan.The company's shares listed in NY were marked down 3.6 percent to $116.6 in pre-market trading.Revenue from digital media and entertainment businesses surged 234 percent to 3.9 billion yuan, reflecting the dividends from the consolidation of Youku Tudou, the video streaming platform Alibaba acquired for $3.5 billion in October.

Alibaba has said it also plans to expand internationally for future growth.

Revenue from digital media and entertainment more than tripled while revenue from "innovation initiatives", including Alibaba's YunOS mobile operating system, were up 88%. While revenue in those nascent divisions is surging, they are yet to make money and costs are soaring as Tencent and Baidu Inc. vie with Alibaba for licensed content.

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But that dominance comes with a cost.

Core commerce revenue, which includes retail and wholesale businesses at home and overseas, jumped 45 percent to 134 billion yuan.

For the quarter, 85 percent of e-commerce revenue in China was transacted on mobile devices, compared to 71 percent year-on-year.

CFO Maggie Wu added: "We reported another excellent quarter, with revenue growth accelerating to 60%, the highest growth rate we've achieved since our IPO". The growth reflects the consolidation of video streaming platform Youku Tudou, which Alibaba acquired in 2015, and the content sharing deal it inked with Amblin Entertainment in October.

Alibaba is very close to reaching its ceiling, said Lu Zhenwang, chief executive officer of Wanqing Consultancy in Shanghai.

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