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Alibaba announces $6 billion buyback but misses EPS forecast


By Cate Cadell

- Group Holding Ltd plans to buy back worth up to $6 billion over two years, the company said on Thursday, as it beat first-quarter forecasts but fell short of earnings estimates.

The Chinese company, which is targeting business lines such as cloud computing, big data, entertainment and offline retail as it expands beyond e-commerce, said the share repurchase scheme would replace its existing buyback programme.

said growth in new business lines contributed to an increase in total to 38.6 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in the quarter to the end of March, above an average forecast of 36 billion yuan according to Thomson I/B/E/S.

"Our base is now more diversified," Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu said, adding that Alibaba's cloud and entertainment sectors became "more meaningful growth drivers" during the quarter.

The firm said, however, that overall earnings in the quarter were hit by tax increases after a local tax reduction linked to Alibaba's investment in Chinese electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd expired.

Alibaba's adjusted earnings per share (EPS) came in at 4.35 yuan ($0.63), below estimates of 4.48 yuan.

The company's listed in New York were marked down 3.6 percent to $116.6 in pre-market trading.

from digital media and entertainment businesses surged 234 percent to 3.9 billion yuan, reflecting the dividends from the consolidation of Youku Tudou, the video streaming platform acquired for $3.5 billion in October.

Alibaba's cloud business continued its run of triple-digit percentage increases, bringing in of 2.2 billion yuan for the quarter, up 103 percent from a year earlier.

has ramped up expansion outside of China and consolidated its Southeast Asian retail site Lazada, which it acquired last year. This included integrating the Singapore-based platform's payment system, Hello Pay, with Alibaba's own payment affiliate, Alipay.

It has also taken steps to expand its merchant base in the United States over the past quarter and plans to host an event next month, which 1,000 U.S. businesses are expected to attend.

This U.S. push follows a meeting between Chairman Jack Ma and U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this year, at which Ma pledged to create one million jobs in the country.

from Alibaba's core e-commerce business rose 47 percent to 31.6 billion yuan in the first quarter, up from the previous quarter's growth rate of 45 percent.

Last year, bought back and canceled roughly 27 million shares, with a large portion coming from early investor Softbank Group Corp, for about $2 billion.

($1 = 6.8908 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Editing by Alexander Smith and David Clarke)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)