Alibaba is scheduled to release its next earnings report on Wednesday before opening bell, and on average, analysts are expecting $1.04 billion in profits, which would be a decline from last year’s $3.57 billion because of a $2.93 billion one-time gain. The gain came from a revaluation of the company’s Alibaba Health Information Technology stake. Analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ are looking for $5.1 billion in sales, marking a significant increase from the $3.49 billion the online retailer recorded in last year’s September quarter.
What to expect in Alibaba’s earnings report
Deutsche Bank analyst Alan Hellawell is looking for Alibaba to report RMB33.7 billion in sales and non-GAAP EBITDA of 44.5%, marking a decline of 2 percentage points sequentially. He expects the company’s China e-commerce revenue to decelerate to a growth rate of 39% year over year, compared to the June quarter’s 49% growth. He notes that last year presents a difficult comparison because Alibaba introduced new ad slots.
The online retailer will no longer report quarterly gross merchandise volume, starting with Wednesday’s report. According to Hellawell, investors are now more focused on other metrics like revenue per active customer, mobile penetration and user engagement. He adds that AliCloud and the Entertainment segment are also growing in importance. The company managed to raise its monetization rate to 2.79% in the June quarter from 2.33% in the same quarter a year ago. The monetization rate for mobile shoppers was actually higher than it was for non-mobile shoppers for the first time in the June quarter, which was a bit of a surprise for some investors.
Hellawell will also be looking for an update on user engagement specifically for the mobile Taobao marketplace, which he notes has climbed due to the addition of embedded social features.
Alibaba’s AliCloud in focus
The DB analyst believes revenue for the AliCloud segment skyrocketed 157% year over year. The company’s cloud segment now has more than 500,000 paying customers, leading to a 156% increase in revenue for the June quarter. Goldman Sachs analysts expect the segment to become profitable at some point in the next two years.
Alibaba management appeared to demonstrate the increasing likelihood of this occurring when they announced that they were slashing prices for AliCloud product by up to 50%. AliCloud said the price cuts were possible due to “scalability and operational efficiency improvements.” Hellawell expects the price cuts to drive even more demand and revenue for AliCloud. In fact, he expects the cloud business to have 1 million paying customers by the end of fiscal 2017.
He also notes that the Tmall Supermarket segment grew by more than 200% in the last quarter, and he expects Alibaba to expand its market share.
Looking ahead to Singles’ Day
In addition to Wednesday’s earnings report, investors will be looking ahead to the Singles’ Day shopping festival, which is coming on Nov. 11. The company racked up $14.3 billion in sales in just the one day in 2015.
Alibaba has seen massive growth in sales on the day, which is one of the biggest online shopping days in the world. Recent marketing efforts lead Hellawell to believe that this year will bring “yet another strong year of growth” with a focus on mobile, user stickiness and product diversity. Katy Perry and other big stars will be taking the stage for the company’s annual Singles’ Day gal.
Also Alibaba will be introducing a number of augmented and virtual reality solutions, and Fliggy, previously branded as Ali Travel, is being marketed more aggressively.
Any update on the SEC probe?
One thing analysts aren’t talking much about is the SEC’s investigation of Alibaba and its accounting practices. The New York Post claims that an insider is helping the agency with its investigation. Regulators are looking into how things are handled between the online retailer and its Cainiao logistics arm and other affiliates.
Shares of Alibaba declined by as much as 0.64% to $101.04 during regular trading hours on Tuesday.