Alibaba records profits surge as crackdown in China intensifies

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Alibaba reported a big quarter for its e-commerce business. But China’s most famous tech firm faced nervous investors on Tuesday as a regulatory crackdown by Beijing and co-founder Jack Ma’s fall from grace cast a shadow over its future

In the third quarter of its staggered fiscal year, the Wall Street-listed group reported a profit of 79 billion yuan ($12.2 billion) on Tuesday, up 52 percent year-on-year.

That came after a fall of 60 percent in the previous quarter.

Sales for the period was up 37 percent year on year to 221.1 billion yuan — outstripping the estimates of analysts polled by financial agency Bloomberg, who forecast a 33 percent increase in revenue.

“Thanks to the rapid recovery of China’s economy, Alibaba had another very healthy quarter,” group CEO Daniel Zhang said in a statement.

While China was the only major world economy to have emerged from a coronavirus-hit 2020 with positive growth, its rate of expansion — 2.3 percent for the year — was still its slowest in 44 years.

In its press release, Alibaba noted the setbacks to its online payment subsidiary Ant Group, whose colossal Hong Kong IPO was stopped in November by Chinese regulators.

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“Ant Group’s business outlook and IPO plans are subject to great uncertainty,” the group said.

A month after the plug was pulled on the IPO, regulators opened an investigation into Alibaba’s business practices, deemed anti-competitive.

On Tuesday, the company said it was “fully cooperating” with the investigation, by the State Administration for Market Regulation.