Business / Technology

Waning prospects dull appetite for Alibaba's investors

By Emma Gonzalez (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-08 07:13

Waning prospects dull appetite for Alibaba's investors

Visitor walks at the headquarters of Alibaba Group in Hangzhou city, East China's Zhejiang province, Sept 21, 2014. [Photo/IC]

E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd will probably never have another year like 2014, when it drew global attention with its record $25 billion initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange.

But less than a year after its September listing, investors are already souring on the company as they see flaws in its business plans that may outweigh the delay of new taxes on the industry.

Ahead of the release on Thursday in New York of Alibaba's results for the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended on March 31, Bloomberg reported that about $70 billion had been wiped off the company's market capitalization since November.

Investors have become increasingly concerned about China's economic slowdown and the possible impact on consumer spending.

Shiv Putcha, an associate director at United States-based technology consultancy International Data Corp, said that the economic slowdown would not have much of a direct impact.

"What will affect Alibaba is if consumption stays flat or declines. If new buyers from underserved areas are not spending enough to compensate for declines from higher-income users, then you will see a problem."

The company did get a bit of a breather on Thursday with the announcement by the State Administration of Taxation that a draft regulation on value-added taxes on e-commerce transactions will not be released this year, as previously planned.

The SAT said the VAT regulation, which will apply to all e-commerce enterprises, will not be released until at least next year.

Jane Zhang, an analyst in the consumer technology sector at Gartner Inc, said: "The news of the delay is positive for the e-commerce sector, especially for Alibaba, since it has the biggest market share. The lack of a specific legislation for e-commerce currently allows companies to have more flexibility."

However, the transaction tax is an issue Alibaba and its competitors will eventually have to face, as the SAT said it still plans to impose new taxes on the industry.

Positive news like this from China is always welcome to investors, since Alibaba's home market remains the source of more than 95 percent of its revenues. The operator of online marketplaces has failed to replicate its domestic success in the global market.

Will Tao, an analyst at consulting firm iResearch, said: "Alibaba's main challenge is international expansion. In order to generate higher revenues in foreign markets, the company needs to cooperate with local partners and identify the differences in those markets."

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