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Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Stock Is Not a Great Choice

BABA stock doesn't have an unbeatable growth story

By Will Healy, InvestorPlace Contributor
Investors Are Wrong To Consider Alibaba As An Amazon Analog

Source: Shutterstock

Many regard Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NASDAQ:BABA) as China’s version of, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN). With the name recognition outside of China and its forays into non-core product lines, most Westerners regard BABA stock as the premier equity in Chinese e-commerce.

However, other competitors have emerged, one even has a business infrastructure similar to that of Amazon. As Alibaba goes into its next earnings report, the question will not be growth, but whether BABA stock continues to gain market share.

Alibaba Enjoys Strong Name Recognition

Few question Alibaba’s success in the e-commerce space. The company has averaged over 51% annual revenue growth in the last five years. Earnings per share (EPS) has also come in high, though with some down years.

However, analysts estimate profits to grow at a 27% rate in 2018, and at an even higher rate in the next two years.

Consensus estimates place earnings for Q3 2018 at $1.67 per share a 23% rise from the same quarter last year when the company earned $1.30 per share. Analysts also expect $12.6 billion in revenues, a 64% year-over-year increase.

Where Alibaba behaves more like Amazon is in other lines of business. Like Amazon, BABA has ventured into areas such as messaging, media, artificial intelligence and even self-driving cars.

The company also has found ways to compete against Amazon in the United States. The latest appears to be a partnership with Kroger Co (NYSE:KR), an area where Amazon stoked fears of a takeover in the grocery business.

Stocks such as Kroger have recovered as Whole Foods Market under Amazon has faced inventory struggles.

BABA less Amazon-like than JD

As I mentioned in a previous article, it is JD.Com Inc (ADR) (NASDAQ:JD) that investors should regard as the “Amazon of China.” JD has actually built an Amazon-like logistics infrastructure.

Tencent Holdings Ltd (OTCMKTS:TCEHY) also competes with BABA, often in conjunction with JD. Alibaba’s core business more closely resembles that of eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY) where BABA serves as the broker as opposed to being the owner of the inventory.

Given the profit growth, few have expressed bearish sentiments on BABA stock. My colleague Vince Martin says BABA is priced for a level of market leadership  not found in Chinese e-commerce. With JD and Tencent presenting threats, Martin believes BABA will fall out of favor.

While I agree with him on the competitive threat, to me, revenue and profit growth have been too high to bet against BABA stock. Their prominence in e-commerce also supports the bullish case. Most of all, Alibaba operates in a market of nearly 1.4 billion consumers.

Chinese incomes keep rising as more of these consumers move into the middle class. Hence, even if they lose market share to JD, Tencent, or any other player, the expanding pie will ensure growth.

JDIs a Profitable Altrnative

The question isn’t decline so much as it is better performance. As mentioned earlier, JD more closely follows Amazon’s e-commerce model. They’ve enjoyed an average 65% growth rate per year in revenues, higher than BABA.

More important, JD also has more room for growth. Its market cap also stands around $70 billion, compared with a market cap of about $510 billion for Alibaba. For investors to double their money with Alibaba, BABA stock will have to rise above that coveted $1 trillion market cap.

No company has yet reached that point, though Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG) could make it to $1 trillion soon. JD only has to reach a relatively modest $150 billion market cap to offer the same return to its investors.

The bottom line on BABA stock

Although analysts widely expect BABA stock to report blowout numbers in the latest earnings report, market share will actually prove to be the most important number. Alibaba is a high-growth stock in a high-growth industry in a large, high-growth market.

With the name recognition and the highly-publicized moves in other businesses, BABA compels investor attention. However, competitors such as JD and Tencent compete with Alibaba and steadily take market share.

Moreover, JD actually resembles Amazon’s core business more closely than does BABA. Investors should do well with a stake in BABA stock. However, they might earn better returns by looking at one of its competitors.

As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media,

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