Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. shares fell to their lowest level since debuting after rival online retailer JD.com Inc. reported better-than-projected earnings, fueling concern that Alibaba’s sales growth may be decelerating.
The shares of Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba declined 2.9 percent to $81.58 at the close in New York. Earlier, the stock fell to $80.03, the lowest price since the day after the company’s September initial public offering. JD.com shares fell 2.2 percent to $27.53. Both stocks are listed in the U.S.
Alibaba, which missed revenue estimates in the latest quarter, is contending with a decelerating Chinese economy and scathing criticism from the government for alleged lax oversight of its websites. The company is also facing competition from JD.com and is working to keep operating in Taiwan after being told to leave after alleged investment violations.
“There may be some money shifting from Alibaba to JD,” said Ella Ji, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York.
JD.com reported revenue of 34.7 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in the fourth quarter, topping analysts’ average projection for 32.9 billion yuan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Beijing-based company also issued a forecast for first-quarter sales that exceeded predictions.
The challenges in Taiwan and a Wall Street Journal report about Alibaba merchants paying people to pretend to be customers, called “brushing,” to pad sales figures have created some short-term negative publicity, Ji said.
“We don’t think those views will have a negative financial impact on Alibaba,” she said. “But PR-wise, it may have some negative impact on the stock.”
Alibaba, which connects consumers and businesses across its platforms, has a “credibility crisis” fueled by its failure to crack down on shady merchants, counterfeit goods, bribery and misleading promotions, China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce said in January.
James Cordwell, an analyst at Atlantic Equities LLP in London, said Alibaba’s fourth-quarter results raised concerns about e-commerce growth and advertising revenue. There may also be a selloff ahead of the first major lockup expiration for insider share sales in mid-March, he said.
“Today’s weakness is no doubt also a result of strong results at key competitor JD.com and also the Taiwan withdrawal news,” Cordwell said.
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