Alibaba’s Sales Surge Overshadowed by First Operating Loss As Public Firm After $2.8 Billion Antitrust Fine

Chinese tech and e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding fell into loss-making territory for the first time since going public in 2014 after being slapped a massive anti-monopoly fine by regulators.

The record 18.23 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) fine issued by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) in early April led to a 7.66 billion yuan ($1.19 billion) operating loss in the fourth quarter that ended on March 31, the company said on Thursday. If the fine was excluded, Alibaba’s income from operations would have been 10.56 billion yuan, a 48% year-on-year increase.

“The penalty decision motivated us to reflect on the relationship between a platform economy and society as well as our social responsibilities and covenants. We believe the self-reflection and adjustments we’ve made will help us better serve our community of consumers, merchants and partners and position us well in the future,” chairman and chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong said in an earnings call. Zhang took over as CEO from Alibaba founder Jack Ma in 2019.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Regulators Issue a $2.8 Billion Fine Against Alibaba for Violating Anti-Monopoly laws

The Hanghzou-based company posted an expectations-beating 64% surge in quarterly revenue of 187.4 billion yuan ($28.6 million). Full-year revenue rose 41% to 717.3 billion yuan.

Its core commerce business propelled the revenue surge, bringing in 161.4 billion yuan (25 billion) in the fourth quarter, a 72% year-on-year rise. Active consumers on Alibaba’s e-commerce retail platforms in China reached 811 million users in the last financial year, an increase of 85 million from a year before.

“Our overall business delivered strong growth on a healthy foundation, with the Alibaba Ecosystem generating a record US$1.2 trillion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) during this fiscal year. We remain very excited about the growth of China’s consumption economy, which is benefiting from the acceleration of digitalization in all aspects of life and work,” Zhang said in written remarks in the earnings release.

The company forecasts an annual revenue of 930 billion yuan ($144.12 billion) for the year ending March 2022, higher than analysts’ estimates of 928.25 billion yuan.

”We plan to use all of our incremental profits and additional capital in fiscal year 2022 to support our merchants and invest into new businesses and key strategic areas that will help us increase consumer wallet share and penetrate into new addressable markets,” chief financial officer Maggie Wu said in the company’s press release.

The revenue of its fast-growing cloud computing business grew 50% year-over-year to 60,120 million yuan ($9,176 million), driven by customers in the Internet, public sector and finance industries, the company said. It directly competes with Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu and Tencent.

Alibaba’s New York-listed shares sank 6.3% to close at $206.08 on Thursday.

The tech giant has fallen under intense regulatory scrutiny starting late October when China’s financial regulators abruptly suspended a $37 billion IPO of Alibaba‘s affiliate Ant Group due to the fintech company’s inability to fulfill conditions amid changes in the regulatory environment. The authorities then launched an official anti-trust probe in December that concluded with the announcement of the record fine last month.

The 18.2 billion yuan penalty, which is a punishment for the company’s “choose one out of two” policy forced upon merchants selling goods on both Alibaba and rival platforms, represented about 4% of the company’s 2019 revenue.