Alibaba International Surpasses Expectations: Earnings Report Reveals Impressive Growth under Jiang Fan

On August 10, Alibaba Group released its financial report for the three months ended June 30, 2023, delivering a solid quarter marked by a revenue of ¥234.16 billion ($32 billion), representing a year-on-year growth of 14%. The non-GAAP net income was ¥44.922 billion ($6.2 billion), a year-on-year increase of 48%, surpassing market expectations.

Daniel Zhang, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group, attributed the impressive performance largely to the company’s recent reorganization, under which Alibaba Group holds six major business groups and various other businesses. “Through this self-driven transformation, we aim to catalyze innovation, promote vitality in our organization and enable businesses to focus on long-term growth. We look forward to positive impacts on our business, including strengthening competitiveness, sustainable growth and shareholder value creation.”

Particularly worth noting is the remarkable growth of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group (Alibaba International): With a stunning 60% year-on-year revenue increase, the financial performance of the company’s international commerce retail business has exceeded market expectations for four consecutive quarters. Currently headed by Jiang Fan, Alibaba International is now one of the fastest-growing business segments within Alibaba Group.

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Alibaba International’s Performance Highlights

As per the earnings release of Alibaba Group, Alibaba International reported a strong financial performance with an overall revenue of ¥22.123 billion ($3 billion) in the June 2023 quarter, a stunning 41% increase compared with the same period last year. This places it at the top among the six major business groups within Alibaba Group in terms of revenue growth.

The robust performance was said to be primarily due to strong combined order growth of retail businesses – 25% compared with the same quarter last year – driven by solid performance of all major retail platforms including Lazada, AliExpress, Trendyol and Daraz, as well as improvements in monetization.

Specifically, during the quarter ended June 30, 2023, AliExpress had focused on enhancing consumer experience, by means of improving price competitiveness and service standards. The platform achieved this through supply chain optimization and parcel consolidation in key strategic countries. These efforts resulted in enhanced convenience for consumers and notable improvements in AliExpress’ user retention rate and purchase frequency. In February, AliExpress launched a new service for its global customers, “Choice”, a 1P model that offers benefits such as free shipping, free returns and quality delivery guarantees. Since its release, “Choice” has been well-received by the market, and is expected to generate more revenue in the future.

In Southeast Asia, Lazada experienced significant year-over-year order growth in the double digits during the past quarter, driven by its ongoing efforts to enhance monetization through the introduction of value-added services for merchants. Regarding customer experience, in May 2023, Lazada introduced LazzieChat, an e-commerce chatbot that greatly improved the customer shopping experience. As the first e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia to integrate ChatGPT in Azure OpenAI Services, Lazada enhanced its customers’ interactions by providing advanced conversational capabilities through the chatbot. These efforts, coupled with improved operating efficiency, resulted in a positive trend in Lazada’s unit economics, according to Alibaba.

Currently one of Turkey’s leading e-commerce companies, Trendyol continued to deliver strong order growth driven by growth in both its e-commerce and local consumer services businesses. Through robust revenue growth and continuing improvement in operating efficiency, for the first time, Trendyol achieved positive operating results during the quarter. Furthermore, as the company is set to enter a new market in Azerbaijan, Alibaba International can expect higher revenue from Trendyol in the following years.

As a result, during the second quarter of 2023, Alibaba’s international retail business revenue reached ¥17.138 billion  ($2.364 billion), an increase of 60% compared to ¥10.742 billion in the same quarter of 2022. Meanwhile, revenue generated by international wholesale businesses remained stable, which was ¥4.985 billion ($687 million). Currently, Alibaba International accounted for approximately 9.4% of Alibaba’s total revenue.

Morgan Stanley analysts have expressed positive market expectations regarding Alibaba International’s financial performance in the past quarter, predicting a faster growth rate of 30% year-on-year, fueled by the strong momentum in Trendyol and AliExpress, as well as improving take rates of Lazada. Furthermore, they anticipate ongoing operating efficiency improvements in international commerce, thanks to Alibaba’s restructuring. “We believe the restructuring can unlock a large portion of free cash flow for the company…we expect earlier breakeven timing for the different business groups”, states the Morgan Stanley report. Among others, Alibaba International is expected to break even in fiscal year 2025.

Such noteworthy accomplishment underscores the solid foundation of Alibaba International and its promising prospects for future growth.

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Alibaba International under Jiang Fan

A notable change in Alibaba’s reorganization is the return of Jiang Fan to Alibaba Partnership.

Currently serving as the CEO of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group, Jiang brings with him a wealth of experience in digital commerce. He joined Alibaba Group in August 2013, and had previously held key positions such as president of Taobao since December 2017, president of Tmall since March 2019, and president of Alimama since December 2019. Jiang also played a crucial role in the successful transformation of Taobao from the PC internet era to mobile. 

In the beginning of 2022, Jiang took over Alibaba’s global digital commerce division. Initially, there were indications that Jiang might have been marginalized by upper management. However, his substantial freedom and autonomy were evident from the outset. In December 2021, Alibaba’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang expressed confidence in the tremendous potential of the overseas market and the rapid growth of overseas business, identifying it as a key growth driver for the Group.

Upon Jiang’s arrival in Alibaba’s global digital commerce unit, now known as Alibaba International, the company was grappling with a loss-making situation, with the adjusted EBITA margin loss surpassing 18% in the fourth quarter of 2021. Within a year of Jiang Fan’s leadership, Alibaba International achieved significant growth through streamlining operations and strengthening localization management. By the fourth quarter of 2022, Alibaba International’s adjusted EBITA margin loss had narrowed to 4%.

“Instead of applying his previous mindset from the Taobao ecosystem to overseas operations, he [Jiang Fan] took the time to learn and think through things before presenting specific strategies and directions to the team,” commented an employee from Alibaba International, cited by domestic media 36Kr. “Getting to the essence has always been his strong suit, and judging by the final results, his strategies have proven to be correct.”

In March this year, Alibaba Group announced the “1+6+N” organizational structure changes, and Jiang Fan became the CEO of Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group, one of the six newly established groups. Immediately after that, in May this year, Alibaba Group also announced the board members of six business groups, and Jiang Fan served as a director in three of the groups, namely Alibaba International, Taobao Tmall, and Cainiao.

During the Fiscal Year 2023 Earnings Conference Call, Jiang Fan outlined his strategic blueprint for Alibaba International. “Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in the cross-border plus local commerce model in our B2C retail sector. There is still significant potential to grow our cross-border business.”