Alibaba shares sink to new low amid gloomy China tech outlook

The stock price of Alibaba Group Holding fell below 100 Hong Kong dollars ($13) a share for the first time Friday, a day of heavy selling in Chinese tech stocks as investors fretted over the company’s growth prospects and risk of further regulatory pressure from Beijing.

Alibaba closed down 5.17% to HK$99 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, down 68% from its peak. On the New York Stock Exchange, where it is also listed, shares traded below $100 for the first time since 2017 but closed at $100.60.

Other U.S.-listed Chinese tech stocks retreated. Pinduoduo ended the day shedding 8.74%, fell 6.25%, and Baidu slipped 5.11%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite, where all three are listed, finished the day down 1.66% overall.

Tencent, the largest Chinese technology company by market capitalization, touched HK$400 during the day, its lowest since mid 2020.

The Hang Seng Tech Index, meanwhile, tumbled 4.4% to a record low.

The decline in Alibaba, holder of the U.S. record for the largest initial public offering, came after it last week posted its slowest quarterly revenue growth, a 10% increase to 242.6 billion yuan ($38.4 billion) for the December quarter. The quarterly financial report did not show any signs of improvement in most business areas.

“Alibaba is facing headwinds in almost all its business segments, including its cash cows Taobao and Tmall,” said Oshadhi Kumarasiri, an analyst who publishes on investment platform SmartKarma. “Thus, Alibaba is bound to underperform in the medium term until valuations fall towards the cyclical low level.”

He expects Alibaba to enter a period of “declining profitability, resulting in an extension to the bear run that the company has been having for the past 14 months.”

Besides regulatory pressure, Alibaba has been facing fierce competition from rivals and Pinduoduo in recent years, as well as headwinds most Chinese companies have faced resulting from China’s economic slowdown and protracted coronavirus disruptions.

Continued regulatory uncertainty in China is pushing the entire technology and internet sector lower. When markets were thinking that the worst of the regulatory crackdowns were over after a few months of quiet, scrutiny over Alibaba’s food delivery app and its fintech affiliate reemerged.

Last month, China’s largest delivery app Meituan tumbled more than 14% on the day Chinese regulators told online food delivery platforms to reduce service fees to help lower operating costs for catering businesses. Although some analysts argued the next day that the measures could be temporary and the market was overreacting, Meituan’s shares have plummeted more than 20% since the announcement.

“It’s obvious that the government clampdown is sinking Alibaba’s shares to a record low, and the clampdown will definitely continue. China doesn’t clamp down for 6 months and then drop it,” said Jeffery Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.

Alibaba affiliate Ant Group, which has been subjected to a sweeping restructuring after its initial public offering was halted by Beijing in 2020, is suffering too. It was reported that Chinese authorities had recently told state-owned companies to launch fresh checks on their financial exposure and other links to Ant, a move that could further inflict pain on Alibaba. Ant Group declined to comment.

Chinese regulators said on Wednesday that the self-inspection within Ant was “almost done,” but that issues remained to be investigated, without elaborating.


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