Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. quarterly sales and earnings beat expectations as growth in cloud computing services bolstered an e-commerce business that continues to defy a slowing Chinese economy.
Revenue at China’s biggest operator of online shopping malls rose 55% to 34.3 billion yuan ($5.1 billion), the company said on Wednesday. That compares with the 33.9 billion-yuan average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Adjusted earnings-per-share were 5.26 yuan, compared with the 4.69 yuan expected by analysts.
Alibaba is capturing even more of a consumer shift to shopping on mobile devices as it uses its massive computing power and investments in data centers to win cloud customers and add a new leg of growth. The results come about a week before the company’s annual Singles’ Day sales event, the world’s biggest 24-hour shopping promotion.
“At this growth rate, Alibaba’s cloud unit could break even as soon as next quarter," said Li Muzhi, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Arete Research Services LLP. "The company’s ability to make money from advertisers on its core e-commerce platforms has also improved."
Shares of Alibaba rose more than 3% in pre-market trading. The stock closed at $101.15 in New York Tuesday and has gained 24% this year compared with a near-3 percent gain for the NYSE Composite Index.
Chairman Jack Ma is complementing the datacenters drive with a push into entertainment as the company gets deeper into the movie and video streaming business.
Core commerce revenue rose 41% to 28.5 billion yuan while sales from the new digital media and entertainment division quadrupled to 3.6 billion yuan.
The cloud unit’s revenue leapt 130% to 1.5 billion yuan in the quarter, the company said. The division narrowed its loss to 57 million yuan after more than doubling its paying customers to 651,000.
“Our results reflect our increasing ability to monetize our 450 million mobile users,” Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang said in a statement. “We also see huge potential in our newly integrated digital media and entertainment unit.”
Alibaba has highlighted trillions of dollars in Chinese households savings as a key driver of growth. After free cash flow reached $8 billion last year, it pledged to keep investing on expansion, despite the potential drag on the bottom line.
The company is moving into untapped rural markets, exploring areas abroad and investing in new sources of income from online media to cloud computing. Alibaba bought Youku Tudou to expand into online video and Lazada to gain a foothold in Southeast Asia.