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Through The Roof

The biggest gainer on this year’s Bloomberg Billionaires Index is Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA), China’s largest e-commerce company. Former English teacher Ma started the Hangzhou-based company in his apartment in 1999, and at 50 he briefly passed Li Ka-shing as the richest man in Asia. Alibaba has seen a 56% surge in shares since its September initial public offering on the NYSE, the largest in history.

 

After a brief slump in growth due to share-based compensation to staff during the September IPO, Alibaba has bounced back with a solid 54% increase in revenue over last year’s same quarter. The performance came even as China’s economy appears to be slowing – this year the country is expected to record its weakest annual growth since 1990.

“We delivered a strong quarter with significant growth across our key operating metrics,” said Jonathan Lu, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group. “Our business continues to perform well, and our results reflect both the strength of our ecosystem and the strong foundation we have for sustainable growth.”

 

Alibaba, which operates Taobao and Tmall marketplaces, accounts for about 80% of China’s online transactions, according to analysts. Taobao, the larger of its businesses, hosts millions of small businesses offering goods and services. Tmall is a retailer for global brands including Apple, Gap and Nike, and more recently luxury brands such as Burberry and Calvin Klein.

 

The two sites did a combined $90.5bn worth of business in the quarter through September, up 49% from a year earlier, Alibaba said. The percentage of business done through mobile transactions – the fastest growing area for online activities – also soared over the quarter. At the end of September mobile business accounted for 35.8% of the overall transactions on Taobao and Tmall, more than double the 14.7% they accounted for a year earlier. The company reports that Alibaba has sold $95bn worth of goods via mobile for the 12 months ending in September.

 

The number of active users on Alibaba’s mobile platforms increased from 188 million to 217 million over the summer of 2014. “We are also encouraged by continued improvement of mobile monetization which demonstrates the strong commercial intent of our users,” said Lu.

 

In a recent note to investors a Jefferies analyst estimated that Alibaba could count half of China’s 1.3bn people as customers over the next decade, up from less than a quarter now. Predicting that rapid growth in e-commerce would offset a slowdown in China’s economic expansion, the analysis noted that e-commerce is the most favorable sector (followed by mobile games, and online travel) benefitting from a shift in Internet user demographics.


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