Alibaba Group Holdings started the new fiscal year quarter 1 reporting for FY2022 by delivering a pretty decent results.
Revenue for the quarter is at US$31.8 billion, which represents a 34% increase year on year. This includes the consolidation of Sun Art, which was consolidated into the Group numbers from previous quarter.
Without Sun Art, revenue would have grown 22% year on year.
If we go through by segmental reporting, revenue sales for the e-commerce grew by 35% year on year while cloud computing grew by 29% year on year. The slower than expected growth in cloud computing is due to one main cloud customer in the international segment that has stopped using the service due to non-product related requirements. Without this, the growth would have been closer to 40% year on year.
Monthly Active Customer (MAU) for the platform ecosystem grew to 1.18 billion globally, which is an increase of over 45 million from the previous year. This is broken down into 912m for China consumers and 265 International consumers outside China. Inside China’s 912m active users, 828m is mostly engaged in Taobao and Tmall – a dominant China retail marketplace.
Income from operations and EBITDA decreased by 11% and 5% respectively year on year. This is due to the increase in spending across strategic areas which management has guided in the previous quarter in order to grow and strengthen their ecosystem. The investment spending is mostly done on community marketplace, Taobao Deals, Local Consumer Service, Lazada, Taobao live and Idle Fish.
All the key unit metrics grew significantly for these investments spending which tends to suggest that there are still market opportunities and is a good ROI for the Group.
Cloud computing also clocked in a first positive EBITDA this quarter with a US$53m profit and would have been higher without the reclassification of Dingtalk done in this quarter.
I like that they are keeping their costs consistently stable across the last few quarters (with exception to that one-off G&A fine accruals). Even the likes of product development and Sales & Marketing are kept consistently at a steady % of their overall revenue. Most of the marketing spent are being done to acquire new user acquisitions so that the entire ecosystem can continue to grow.
Cashflow from Operating is at US$5.2 billion while Free Cash Flow is at US$3.2 billion, of which much of those were spent on the settlement of the previous fine imposed by the China’s State Administration for Market Regulation on the Anti-monopoly law.
The conference kicked off by the usual standard reporting of the Group’s presentation slides.
The obvious elephant in the room is Taobao and Tmall – their main e-commerce revenue stream. They placed importance on sustainable growth and will keep growing their core competency in this area while continuing to look for opportunities outside to enhance their ecosystem.
The management talked a bit about Trendyol – which is one of the investment spent for the company in recent years and is today the largest e-commerce platform headquartered in Turkey. They see this as the gateway to the market demand in Europe.
They also mentioned about the important of growing the Cainiao logistics as part of their supply chain ecosystem and it is important to keep growing this segment to remain competitive.
Cloud computing is also one which they are optimistic and will continue to diversify across industries. The slower growth this quarter was due to the one-off drop in one of the customer which I mentioned above. But they will have new acquiring customers onboard from next quarter onwards.
To summarize, the 3 things the management wants investors to take note of:
1.) Guidance for the FY2022 remain unchanged.
2.) The company will continue to spend on strategic growth areas.
3.) The company is increasing the share repurchase program from US$10b to US$15b for this fiscal year as it remains confident of the long term prospect of the valuation. It is also the largest share repurchase buyback program the company has initiated in their history. To date, the company has repurchased a total of about US$3.8b.
First question – Multiapps Strategy on Taobao Deals KPI and Monetization Strategy
Management’s reply – With the development of Taobao Deals, the company is building a matrix to better serve the needs and preferences of most users when interacting in different context so important to be able to cater to all the different level of users. Taobao deals also have clear value proposition and positioning in the market that they are able to compete effectively in the entire ecosystem in China across the different competitors.
Important goal of Taobao Deals is to increase the user base and incremental users to allow them entry into their ecosystem which might bring about other benefits.
Connectivity and openness continue to be a core value of the company which is even more important in today’s context of data privacy and cross-border platform connectedness and to share transparent benefits across one another. This will also help merchants to reduce their traffic acquisition costs and improve user’s experience when transacting in our platform.
The management will also look into studying the regulatory review requirements which includes blocking access into other competitor’s platform and will comply to look into a common ground and benefit together.
Second question – How does increasing regulations in data affect the way the company comply with IT Infrastructure and what does it costs. What about subsidies.
Management’s reply – Data security law and guidance critics for review will safeguard the long term privacy of the organization and is very important to every information infrastructure not just in China but also across Europe and US. The company is doing a self-regulatory check and continuously seek for review in order to remain compliance with the regulatory law.
The company has never in the history of the organization try to grow their customer acquisitions through subsidies for orders. The company will continue to create value creation and does not believe in over subsidies for market acquisitions which will not last over-time.
Third question – KPI used to value these incremental investment and ROI as it’s not so clear in the presentation slides. Another question on effectiveness of collecting data.
Management’s reply – The channel of strategic investments are very clear and how much are those spending are being made to each businesses and also how much growth for each GMV for marketplaces or GFA for areas or MAU for Idlefish, etc. The goal is to grow domestic user base in China is to grow from 912m user base in China to 1b in China in the 3rd/4th quarter of this year and while it may look easy on paper, these growth is a result of all those incremental efforts that we put in these businesses to create further value creation.
Internally, the company will continue to evaluate these investments in 3 dimensions – user base (and whether they are using the different applications in the ecosystem), GMV which translates straight into financial numbers, and user experience and survey on-time delivery, happiness index.
The company has never sought to leverage utilization on data to maximize advertising such as click through rate. The value for users is to create value creation. Thus, we see the data privacy regulation as something which is positive and will create more value for the Group and users.
Fourth question – Cloud Computing Growth Rate and Prospect and CMR + GMV prospect for e-commerce.
Management’s reply – Cloud computing growth rate “slowed” down to 29% this quarter due to the one customer which dropped off. Without this, the growth would have been 40% year on year. This impact from the drop-off will continue towards the rest of the year. There are also other industries which might also impact such as the online education industry but there will be new venture of growth such as financial institution, manufacturing, etc. The total addressable market is extremely huge and the cloud market is only at the infant stage.
To address on concentration risks, the top 10 customers all have single digit revenue contribution to the cloud so can be considered diversified in terms of customers.
Going forward, CMR + GMV growth will depend also on all the incremental businesses that we spend in order to create a loop ecosystem and also the spending done on logistics and supply chain will enhance the overall value creation for users.
Fifth question – Investments in Marketplace and Core Taobao & Tmall
Management’s reply – We are investing additionally in subset marketplace in addition to support the core marketplace like Taobao & Tmall.
We see live streaming as an integral part of the overall operations in order to support more merchants to bring in additional revenue stream as one of the thing that distinguishes from other competitors.