Chinese e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. stock is on the war path in 2017, up more than 100% since the beginning of the year, as investors have rewarded Alibaba and its executives for making big gains in e-commerce.
When the company’s fiscal second-quarter results are released Thursday before the bell, the company’s retail growth in China will remain a critical part of Alibaba’s success—and a metric analysts will closely watch. Making up an estimated $5.99 billion of the company’s $7.82 billion second-quarter sales, Alibaba’s
China retail business dwarfs the company’s other revenue, including that from its growing cloud-computing and digital-media divisions.
A Barclays analysts estimates that the company’s China retail will grow 58%, according to a note sent to clients Tuesday. Based in part on data from the Chinese national statistics bureau, Barclays analyst Gregory Zhao wrote that overall online retail sales growth is accelerating 34.2%, up from 33.4% in the first half of 2017. That trend “bodes well” for Alibaba’s large e-commerce sites, Taobao and Tmall, which Zhao expects to grow 15% and 36% respectively in the September quarter.
SunTrust Robinson Jumphrey also believes China retail presents a substantial opportunity for Alibaba, analysts wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. Analyst Youssef Squali rates the stock a buy with a price target of $205.
Here’s what to expect
Earnings: Analysts expect adjusted earnings of $1.04 a share for the company’s fiscal second quarter on average, compared with 76 cents a share in the year-earlier period, according to FactSet. Typically, Alibaba’s earnings are the strongest for its fiscal third quarter, which coincides with the holiday shopping season.
Estimize, a crowdsourcing platform that gathers estimates from Wall Street analysts as well as buy-side analysts, hedge-fund managers, company executives, academics and others, estimates earnings of $1.11 a share.
Revenue: Analysts expect sales of $7.82 billion for the fiscal second quarter, up from $4.93 billion in the year-earlier quarter. Estimize contributors predict revenue of $7.85 billion on average.
Stock price: Alibaba stock is up 109.8% this year, as the S&P 500 index
is up 14.9%. Rival Amazon.com Inc.
has gained 47.6% this year.
Alibaba shares are American depositary receipts, which are issued by American banks who have negotiated and purchased a stake in a foreign corporation. Each ADR is the equivalent of one share of Alibaba, which investors value at $465.9 billion, according to FactSet.
What else to watch for: Much like American rival Amazon.com Inc.
, Alibaba has a growing cloud-computing unit with healthy margins. According to analysts polled by FactSet, the cloud division will haul in an estimated $421 million in revenue the second quarter, up from $215 million in the year-earlier period.
Barclays analyst Zhao estimates that the cloud unit will grow 94% compared with the year earlier quarter. Zhao rates the stock overweight and has a price target of $220, which it raised from $200 Tuesday.
In terms of the company’s core e-commerce business, Stifel analyst Scott Devitt wrote in a note to clients Tuesday that he expects the company’s margins to contract slightly into fiscal 2018, due to its marketing and logistics spending.
“We expect lower margins in the back half of F2018 as Alibaba increases investments in marketing, logistics (Cainiao), subsidies, and user acquisition,” Devitt, who rates Alibaba stock a buy with a price target of $190, wrote.
Much like Amazon has Prime Day, a shopping holiday that has boosted second-quarter revenue in a period when sales are typically slow, Alibaba has Singles Day. The celebration, which is officially Nov. 11, kicked off last week—with the fanfare and coupon codes to boot—and Zhao thinks that it will push gross market value to grow between 27% and 31% compared with last year. Expect those sales to be a big part of any forecast Alibaba shares for the fiscal third quarter.
Benchmark analyst Fawne Jiang wrote in a note to clients last week that Alibaba has set its internal target for gross merchandise volume for Singles Day at $150 billion, compared with $120.7 billion the year earlier. Alibaba expects to achieve 60% to 80% of the target within the first two hours of the day. Jiang rates Alibaba a buy with a $200 price target.
Of the 46 analysts who cover Alibaba, 43 have a buy or overweight rating and three have a hold, according to FactSet. The average price target is $204.75