Staff Reporters
May 14, 2021

Singed by antitrust fine, Alibaba posts first quarterly loss as a public company

The tech giant posted an operating loss of RMB 7.6 billion ($1.1 billion) due to a RMB 18.2 billion ($2.78 billion) fine levied by China’s market regulator.

China's market regulator had fined Alibaba $2.78 billion for monopolistic practices. (Getty Images)
China's market regulator had fined Alibaba $2.78 billion for monopolistic practices. (Getty Images)

Chinese technology giant Alibaba tumbled to its first quarterly loss as a publicly listed company, as a $2.78 billion fine imposed by the country's market regulator weighed down its fourth quarter results. The firm announced that its operating loss was was RMB 7.6 billion ($1.170 billion) due to this fine, but stated that excluding this one-time charge, its operating income would have been RMB 10.5 billion ($1.6 billion), an increase of 48% year-over-year. 

Revenue for the fourth quarter was RMB 18.73 billion (US$2.86 billion), an increase of 64% YOY. Excluding the consolidation of Sun Art, Alibaba's revenue would have grown 40% YOY to RMB 159.95 billion ($24.41 billion). Annual active consumers on its China retail marketplaces reached 811 million for the twelve months ended March 31, an increase of 32 million from the 12 months ended December 31. Mobile monthly active users hit 925 million in March, an increase of 23 million over December.


For the full financial year, Alibaba's operating income fell by 2% YOY to RMB 89.67 billion (US$13.68 billion), on account of the fine and an increase in share-based compensation, even as revenue hit RMB 717.28 billion ($109.4 billion), an increase of 41% year-over-year.

“Alibaba achieved a [sic] historic milestone of 1 billion annual active consumers globally in the fiscal year ended March 2021,” Daniel Zhang, chairman and chief executive officer of Alibaba Group, said in a press release. 

He also told analysts on a review call that annual active consumers outside of China increased by 60 million to over 240 million as of March, "which reflects the progress of our globalisation strategy." According to Zhang, Alibaba Cloud's revenue exceeded RMB 50 billion for the past fiscal year, representing YOY growth of 50%. 

However, this statement didn't hide some emerging cracks in the cloud computing business, which grew 37% quarter on quarter. This represents its slowest growth in five years because of "revenue decline from a top cloud customer in the Internet industry." The firm reported that this client, which has a sizeable presence outside of China, terminated the relationship "with respect to their international business due to non-product related requirements." 


According to an Alibaba media statement, its international retail marketplaces, which include AliExpress and Lazada in Southeast Asia, served approximately 240 million annual active consumers during the year ended March 31. "When it comes to making these investments, we do have three major strategic priorities...  domestic consumption, globalisation, and the cloud part of the business," Zhang added on the investor call. 

In March, Alibaba's China retail marketplaces had 925 million mobile MAUs, representing annual and quarterly net increases of 79 million and 23 million, respectively. There were 811 million annual active consumers on its China retail marketplaces for the 12 months ended March 31, representing annual and quarterly net increases of 85 million and 32 million, respectively. In fiscal 2021, approximately 70% of new annual active consumers were from less developed areas of China. 

Overall GMV (gross merchandise value), excluding unpaid orders, grew 21% YOY in fiscal 2021, Alibaba reported, driven primarily by the FMCG and home-furnishing categories. GMV also grew 33% YOY in the first quarter, driven primarily by the apparel and home-furnishing categories. For the March quarter, Tmall online physical goods GMV, excluding unpaid orders, grew 26% YOY, and Taobao online physical goods GMV, excluding unpaid orders, grew even faster as SME merchants recovered from the pandemic.

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