Alibaba beats forecasts with 61% growth and predicts more of the same for the next year

Alibaba is forecasting yet more growth for its business after it beat analyst forecasts with its fourth-quarter results.

Revenue came in at 61.9 billion RMB ($9.9 billion), an increase of 61 percent year-over-year, which topped a 59.6 billion RMB prediction from analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The company’s net income for the quarter did drop, however, to 6.6 billion RMB ($1.1 billion) from 9.9 billion RMB one year previous on account of increased investment activity.

Alibaba earned 24.51 RMB per share for its full fiscal year 2018, with total revenue of 250.3 billion RMB and 58 percent annual growth.

The firm expects that impressive rate to be held into its next financial year. Alibaba CFO Maggie Wu said she expects “overall revenue growth above 60 percent, reflecting our confidence in our core business as well as positive momentum in new businesses.”

The company said its annual base of active users rose by 37 million to reach 552 million; its monthly active user count reached 617 million, up by the same factor of 37 million.

Breaking things down it was a familiar story. The company’s core commerce business delivered the bulk of the revenue — 214 billion RMB, $34 billion for the quarter — while its cloud computing business was again the star performer, notching 100% growth to record its first $2 billion (13.4 billion RMB) annual revenue.

Alibaba has always been keen to invest, but during the last quarter it doubled down on a range of initiatives.

The firm is taking an option to buy one-third of Ant Financial, which resulted terminated a long-standing revenue-sharing agreement that some analysts believe to be worth as much as one billion RMB ($160 million) per quarter. While other impacting deals included the full buyout of food delivery services Ele.me, for upwards of $5 billion, as part of an offline retail push in China and, in Southeast Asia, a $2 billion investment in Lazada, which saw original Alibaba co-founder Lucy Peng installed as new CEO.

Costly? Maybe. But these ventures are what makes CFO Wu and others in management optimistic that Alibaba can sustain its growth. That’s been a key question since its blockbuster IPO in 2014 and Alibaba has long invested in international expansion and new revenue channels in China to offset a demand on its core business.

Alibaba Group had an excellent quarter and fiscal year, driven by robust growth in our core commerce
business and investments we have made over the past several years in longer-term growth initiatives,” added Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

The original version of this article was updated to correct that Alibaba’s cloud business revenue is for the year, not the quarter.