Alibaba Faces “Its Most Dangerous Moment”

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is China’s, and probably the world’s, biggest online commerce company. Millions of users as well as businesses and suppliers use their three main sites — Taobao, Tmall and Alibaba became one of the most valuable tech companies in the world after raising $25 billion from its U.S. IPO on September 18th, 2014, the largest global IPO in history.

Founder and Chairman Jack Ma, however, seems to be making some cautious statements of late. According to Ma, BABA might be facing a crisis of expectations. According to Bloomberg, “Even two months before the IPO, people didn’t think we would make money,” Ma said in a speech Thursday at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China. “Now the problem is people think we are too good -- we can do anything. This is the most dangerous moment.”

Ma’s remark seems to contradict Baba’s first growth prospects as a publicly traded company, which showed in its first earnings report a hefty 54 percent stock surge since its September IPO.

Mobile services

Alibaba currently boasts over 307 million active buyers and continues to draw more sellers to its e-commerce sites by utilizing interesting marketing tools, many of which examine user predilections. Last month, Ma announced intentions of cooperating with Apple Inc. for joint mobile payment services, as close to 29 percent of Alibaba’s revenue from Chinese retail marketplaces is done through mobile transactions.

Ma is also interested in expanding into Hollywood by partnering with well-known Hollywood film and television figures. On a recent trip to Hollywood, Ma spoke about expanding China’s movie industry and discussed Alibaba’s entertainment content which includes high-definition movies and TV shows through its set-top boxes and online video site Youku Tudou Inc. in which Alibaba has a minority stake.China will be the world’s largest movie market as the nation’s middle class expands to 200 million people, Ma said.

At its IPO, Baba sold at $68. It closed at $110.73 on the NYSE Friday. Adjusted earnings per share for the September quarter were 2.79 yuan (46 U.S. cents), Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba said, topping the 2.74 yuan average of analysts’ estimates.

Ma’s portentous warning echoes previous remarks from the billionaire about the challenges facing the company. According to Ma, employees are becoming too complacent while innovation is waning and not keeping up with the possibilities of today’s mobile age.

Alibaba’s two other sites, Taobao and Tmall, are both mobile companies which Ma would like to see expanding. They are currently competing with Tencent Holdings Ltd. for the 632 million Chinese who access the Internet from mobile devices. China has more mobile users than the population of any other country except India.

Ma sees many opportunities for Alibaba around the world and says he doesn't want to compete with EBay Inc. (EBAY) and Inc. (AMZN) in the U.S. Alibaba is already the top shopping site in Russia and Brazil markets, where it currently has no employees. AliExpress, an Alibaba site for users outside China, has become the No. 1 shopping site in Russia, according to researcher TNS.

Ma continues to look for new ways of expanding into new businesses and targeting markets outside his home country. Despite his dire warning, Ma’s innovative efforts should move the company forward across the globe.

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John Fitch 9 years ago Member's comment

Ma should focus on improving AliExpress. Complaints everywhere you look. Terrible service.