Questions for Alibaba’s IPO Roadshow

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Alibaba updated its initial public offering plan with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week, providing additional information. The Chinese e-commerce giant’s IPO is one of the most-anticipated this year, and investors may be lining up to get in on it early.

However, Bernstein analysts say there are still many questions management should answer for investors before they dive in.

Where could Alibaba go next?

In a report dated Sept. 5, 2014, analysts Carlos Kirjner and Peter Paskhaver said they want to know more about what Alibaba management either planning to do or not do. They also want to know how management decides what they’re going to do and what they want the company to do. They note that there are numerous opportunities for Alibaba that are also huge, and they want to know what might limit the company’s ability to invest in those opportunities.

In addition, the Bernstein team wants to know about the prospect for gross merchandise volume growth in the medium to long term.

Digging deeper into Alibaba’s numbers

They also want to know if recent users are spending less than older users “at the same level of maturity.” In other words, they’re wondering if Alibaba’s newer users have lower income and consumption levels which might result in pressure on gross merchandise volume per user.

And then there’s the issue of mobile monetization, which remains lower than desktop right now. They’re wondering why this is true. For example, is the cost per click lower on mobile devices, or are click-through rates lower? Or is the ad load lower than it is on desktop?  The Bernstein team believes all three are true.

Also on the topic of mobile monetization, the analysts are wondering why it is ramping up so much more slowly than mobile usage is. Also they’re wondering how quickly management is able to ramp up ad-driven monetization without negatively impacting the experience of users.

Looking at Alibaba’s parts

The Bernstein analysts also note that WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, is garnering more and more user time. They want to know if it will negatively impact Alibaba’s marketing costs or gross merchandise volume by steering traffic over to Alibaba’s competitors. Still on the topic of competition, they’re wondering whether Alibaba’s Taobao or TMall are quickly losing share to in markets where JD has already set up its own infrastructure to cover the last mile of deliveries.

And in terms of TMall, they want to know if successful merchants will move away from the marketplace to their own websites, thus shifting gross merchandise volume and revenue growth away from the Alibaba-owned market.

Investing in infrastructure

And finally, Bernstein analysts have some questions about infrastructure. For example, they want to know if Alibaba Group is planning to build out a nationwide fulfillment infrastructure and / or develop a loyalty program that’s similar to, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s Prime service.

They’re also wondering about last mile delivery and whether it will offer a competitive advantage in China and why Alibaba wouldn’t invest in last mile delivery because it influences such a large chunk of packages in China.

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