Alibaba shares jumped 2.85% to $68.82 on Monday after reports that the company, its executive chairman Jack Ma and vice-chairman Joseph Tsai have taken part in a $500 million stock repurchase. It was part of a $4 billion stock buyback program announced in August last year. A company spokesman confirmed that the two top executives participated in the buyback along with the company itself, but did not disclose the amounts purchased by each party.
Alibaba stock trading near IPO levels
The buyback comes as its shares have declined about 20% since last year, currently trading near its IPO price of $68. According to Sina News, Jack Ma and Joseph Tsai used their private funds to buy shares worth $500 million. Investors fear that China’s slowing economic growth and a worsening outlook would affect consumer spending. The stock repurchase is an attempt to shake off concerns that the country’s economic slowdown would affect shopping on Alibaba’s platforms.
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The Hangzhou-based company is also facing stiff competition from JD.com, which continues to gain market share. Alibaba still enjoys about 80% share in China’s e-commerce market. The stock price plunge has eroded the personal wealth of Jack and Joseph Tsai. According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Ma is currently worth $26.8 billion, while Tsai has a net worth of $4.4 billion.
The stock is ‘notably undervalued’
Scott Kessler of S&P Global Market Intelligence told Barron’s that the stock repurchase by the company, Ma and Tsai was a bullish sign. Kessler has a Strong Buy rating on the stock with $90 price target. The buyback also indicates that Alibaba’s top two executives see the stock as “notably undervalued.” The company’s shares rose to an all-time high of $120 in November 2014 before falling back to the IPO level.
Despite being one of the world’s largest e-commerce firms, Alibaba is overly reliant on its home market China. The company has been expanding in other markets such as India and Russia, but it has a long way to go there.