China-based e-commerce titan Alibaba Group (NYSE: BABA) absolutely crushed its first-quarter earnings report. Sales rose 53% year over year to $7.4 billion, adjusted earnings jumped 58% to $1.17 per share, and both figures exceeded Wall Street's estimates of $7.2 billion and $0.92 per share, respectively. Share prices have gained 7% since the report, adding to an 82% return over the last 52 weeks.
Following that stellar earnings release, Alibaba's management also held an informative conference call with financial analysts. Here are three of the most important takeaways from that call.
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1. A success years in the making
Here's how Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai began the earnings call:
This company isn't chasing short-term wins to impress investors. Instead, Alibaba invests in growth engines for the long run. Eleven percent of revenue is funneled into research and development efforts, on par with innovators like Netflix and IBM.
That's how you build a business for the ages. The company has been in business for 18 years now, but is still growing like a brand-new upstart.
2. Greenfield growth opportunities
Tsai further commented:
Alibaba is already a huge retail presence in China, but there is plenty of untapped growth left to explore. Tsai also offered some visions of how online retail could play a larger part in the daily life of Chinese consumers.
"Imagine a store where you can pick items from the shelf and then at the same time purchase other items not from the shelf, but from your mobile phone, and then you tell the store to send everything you just bought to your home because you need to go to catch a movie," he said. "That's the kind of spontaneity, convenience and speed that modern-day consumers are going to expect and Alibaba is setting the standard for fulfilling this high expectation."
3. Cloud computing is set to soar
CFO Maggie Wu remarked:
Alibaba's cloud computing services are collecting more than $1 billion in annual sales today, serving 1 million paying customers. That's still far smaller than Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN) Amazon Web Services, where the annual revenue run rate stands at $16 billion right now. But Alibaba's cloud computing revenues doubled year over year in the second quarter while Amazon's annual cloud growth has slowed down to "only" 41%.
For Amazon, cloud services have become the company's most profitable segment. Alibaba's cloud segment is still unprofitable, but climbing closer to the breakeven point with each passing quarter. If Amazon's example is any indication of the market value in large-scale cloud computing services, Alibaba should reap plenty of profits from this division over the long haul.
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