Trading Alibaba: Spotlight on stocks
By Paul Reid
21 April 2023
With so much political turmoil in the world, it’s hard to forecast the markets right now, especially for Chinese-related assets. Let’s explore Alibaba (BABA) and see if the company is recession-proof or a potential short.
Who is Alibaba?
Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese multinational technology company specializing in e-commerce, retail, and technology. Founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, Alibaba has since become one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world, ranked 37th against the biggest giants of all industries worldwide.
The company started as a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace connecting Chinese manufacturers with buyers worldwide. Over time, Alibaba expanded its offerings to include business-to-consumer (B2C), and consumer-to-consumer (C2C), along with e-commerce platforms, online payment services, and cloud computing services.
Alibaba went public in 2014 with an initial public offering (IPO) priced at $68 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Alibaba’s IPO boosted the value of the company to a staggering $167.6 billion, the largest IPO of the time raising $25 billion.
Since then, Alibaba's market capitalization has grown significantly. As of April 2023, the company's market cap is around $574 billion.
Alibaba's revenue has continued to grow in recent years. In the fiscal year 2022, the company reported total revenue of CNY 853.1 billion (approximately $134.6 billion USD), an increase of 19% from the previous year. The largest share of Alibaba's revenue, 67%, comes from its domestic e-commerce retail segment, and online marketplaces such as AliExpress.
A very optimistic picture from the revenue reports showing YoY growth of 19%. A very sunny outlook, but let’s keep digging.
Expansion into foreign markets
Besides its success in China, Alibaba has expanded beyond its geographic borders. The company launched its international marketplace AliExpress with tremendous success, finally allowing international buyers direct and easy access to Chinese products and sellers.
As of 2023, 200 million shoppers visit AliExpress every month from 230 countries. And with 100 million products available, it’s no wonder that AliExpress handles 60,000 packages per day.
Alibaba in the news
Alibaba's stocks experienced a decline from $120 to just $68 per share in a matter of 3 months. This was said to be an effect caused by Japan's SoftBank plans to sell almost all remaining shares of Alibaba. But then, for no obvious reason, the price rebounded to $104 in less than 10 days.
The situation is intriguing, as one would expect a big shareholder selling a stake, even if it was not entirely unforeseen, to exert downward pressure on the shares. SoftBank has experienced some difficulties lately, and it has been cutting many holdings, which suggests that the dumping of BABA shares is more reflective of SoftBank's performance rather than Alibaba's.
SoftBank has struggled with some of its Vision Funds, which have amassed billions of dollars, but have not provided the returns that investors had expected. This occurrence could indicate a broader referendum on SoftBank, or SoftBank may need to liquidate some more of its positions for operational purposes.
SoftBank isn’t necessarily perceiving BABA as a poor investment, it simply needs a lot of cash. The timing of this move coincides with Alibaba’s announcement to divide operations into 6 unique entities… no doubt another factor that kept BABA on the shortlist for dumping.
Whether World War III is coming, or just a lot of posturing and sanctions, nobody knows for sure, but China is definitely sending strong invasion signals to Taiwan. If yet another big bully victimizes a small nation again, sanctions will fly. Being an international e-commerce business based in a country that is blacklisted is a risky situation.
And if a cold war starts to heat up, pretty much all Chinese e-commerce businesses could crumble under international political pressure. Not to mention, many of those products find their way to American shores where consumer spending is on a sharp decline.
In conclusion, Alibaba has had a significant impact on the e-commerce industry, but it is still 4 times smaller in revenue than Amazon. Growth in recent years was more than double that of Amazon, both in China and internationally, but the landscape is changing, and it seems unlikely that BABA will fare well in the coming months. The same can be said for many stocks from multiple countries.
A downturn is due, and when the economic correction is over, only the biggest and strongest will survive. But we’re not talking about survival. We just need to know if the stocks rise or fall.
A rise is hard to imagine, but if blockages and naval battles kick-off, Chinese supply and demand chains will break, and without that, an e-commerce business is just a warehouse with high costs. Watch the news daily, when you see ships, it might be time to short.
This is not investment advice. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Your capital is at risk, please trade responsibly.
Paul Reid is a financial journalist dedicated to uncovering hidden fundamental connections that can give traders an advantage. Focusing primarily on the stock market, Paul's instincts for identifying major company shifts is well established from following the financial markets for over a decade.
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