Alibaba (BABA) Q3 2023 earnings report for December quarter


Alibaba is operating in Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, China, on December 29, 2023.

Costfoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Shares of Alibaba initially whipsawed in premarket trade on Wednesday, as the company missed market expectations for revenue in the December quarter, but announced it is increasing the size of its share buyback program by $25 billion.

U.S.-listed shares in the Chinese e-commerce giant were are one point more than 5% higher in pre-market trade, veering between positive and negative territory.

Alibaba said the $25 billion increase is added to its share repurchase program through the end of March 2027, bringing the total available under the scheme to $35.3 billion.

The company said in a statement that the increased buyback shows the “confidence in the outlook of our business and cash flow.”

The announcement comes after a tumultuous year for Alibaba in 2023, when the company carried out its largest-ever corporate structure overhaul. It also separately implemented several high-profile management changes, with company veteran Eddie Wu taking over the reins as chief executive in September.

Alibaba on Wednesday released financial results for its December quarter.

Here’s how Alibaba did in its fiscal third quarter, compared to LSEG estimates:

  • Revenue: 260.35 billion Chinese yuan ($36.6 billion) versus 262.07 billion yuan expected.

Revenue missed expectations, growing just 5% year-over-year, logging a slowdown from the previous quarters as growth in the company’s China e-commerce business and cloud computing division remained slow.

Meanwhile, Alibaba’s net income in the December quarter fell 69% year-on-year to 14.4 billon Chinese yuan. The company said this was “primarily attributable to mark-to-market changes” to its equity investments and to a decrease in income from operations due to impairments related to its video streaming service Youku and supermarket chain Sun Art.

China e-commerce, cloud business slow

Alibaba’s reorganization

Alibaba has gone through some major changes over the past year.

Daniel Zhang, the previous CEO of Alibaba Group who became acting head of the cloud business in December 2022, was supposed to stay on to lead the business unit, but unexpectedly quit in September last year.

When Alibaba carried out its corporate restructuring last year, it created six separate business groups and announced some of these units will be able to go public and also raise outside financing. Among those being touted for initial public offerings were Alibaba’s cloud unit, logistics arm Cainiao and Freshhippo grocery arm.

Alibaba scrapped the hotly-anticipated spinoff of its cloud computing business last year.

Joe Tsai, chairman of Alibaba, said on the earnings call on Wednesday that any business spinoff or outside financing will be “subject to market conditions.

“Market conditions currently are just not in a state where we believe we can really truly reflect the true intrinsic values of these businesses,” Tsai said.

He added that “generating synergies” within the companies under Alibaba is the “best way to reflect the value of the entire group.”

While Alibaba will “continue to explore separate financing for its business,” according to Tsai, the company is “not in a hurry on the timing of these transactions.”

CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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