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Alibaba CEO Lu to Step Down as Quarterly Earnings Rise

Despite hiring freeze and possible regulatory pressure, company reported earnings gains.


(Reuters) — Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, said on Thursday that chief executive Jonathan Lu will step down, effective May 10, and would be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zhang. Lu will remain on the board as vice chairman.

The announcement came as Alibaba reported quarterly revenue that beat analysts’ expectations, as the company reported a jump in gross merchandise volume.

Alibaba’s American depository shares were up 7.5 percent at $86 in premarket trading.

Alibaba’s revenue jumped to $2.81 billion in the quarter ended March 31, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.77 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company earned $463 million, or 18 cents per share. Excluding items, the company earned 48 cents per share, beating the 42 cents analysts estimated.

Alibaba’s gross merchandise volume (GMV) on China retail marketplaces jumped 40 percent to $97 billion. Mobile GMV continued to grow, accounting for 51 percent of total GMV, up from 42 percent in the December quarter.

About two-thirds of Alibaba’s sales still come from its consumer-to-consumer marketplace Taobao, where it primarily earns revenue from advertising and marketing services and charges less for marketing on mobile devices than on computers.

“We assume that stepped up efforts to remove counterfeit goods has a measurable impact on GMV this quarter,” MKM Partners analyst Rob Sanderson wrote in a note on May 4.

Investors have been spooked in recent months by the perception of increased regulatory pressure on Alibaba to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods on its platforms. Executive Chairman Jack Ma’s hiring freeze announcement also dampened enthusiasm among those primed to expect continued rapid growth.

The number of mobile monthly active users soared 77 percent to 289 million. The number of overall annual active buyers increased 37 percent to 350 million.

The quarterly report card was only the third since Alibaba’s record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering in New York in September.

Up to Wednesday’s close, the stock had fallen more than 33 percent since hitting a record high of $120 in November.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru and John Ruwitch in Shanghai; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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