ECOMMERCE

Report: Alibaba primed for explosive global growth

BY Marianne Wilson

Move over Amazon — China's largest online player is looking to take on the world.

Now the largest e-commerce company in the world with $430 billion in gross merchandise volume, Alibaba is seeking to become a global company as well with a goal of serving more than 2 billion shoppers, according to a new report by global think tank FGRT (Fung Global Retail & Technology).

Since it was founded in 1999 as a business-to-business portal connecting Chinese manufacturers to overseas buyers, overseas buyers, Alibaba has expanded to include direct selling to consumers as well as digital entertainment, innovative initiatives and local services. Executive chairman Jack Ma now hopes to expand the company into a global phenomenon that will serve 2 billion customers, host 10 million businesses on its platforms by 2036 and achieve $1 trillion in GMV by fiscal year 2020.

"With the growth of Singles' Day and other promotions, Alibaba is becoming better known outside Asia as an innovative force in e-commerce, but many still don't understand the full breadth of its influence and plans for the future," says FGRT managing director Deborah Weinswig.

The report, "Alibaba Group: From Strength to Strength-An Overview of the Business Units of the World's Largest E-Commerce Company," details Alibaba's many different platforms and marketplaces. It also notes that more so than Amazon, Alibaba is expanding beyond retail into film production and distribution, investing in Alibaba Pictures as well as an online ticketing platform, a music streaming service; and a video-streaming operator.

Other investments include Alibaba Sports, a physical and e-sports events developer and operator; UC Web, a mobile browser; DingTalk, a B2B enterprise messaging platform; YunOS, an Internet of Things (IoT) operating system; AutoNavi, a digital map and navigation service; Ali Health, a healthcare services platform; Koubei, a search engine for local services such as restaurants, food delivery and travel; and AliPay, a third-party online payment app developed by Ant Financial, an Alibaba-affiliated company; and cloud-computing and marketing services.

"Technologies such as cloud computing, payment, logistics and local services penetrate every facet of consumers' daily lives," Weinswig stated in the report.

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FINANCE

Birchbox on block?

BY Marianne Wilson

Online subscription beauty retailer Birchbox may be looking to sell itself.

The company has been discussing a potential sale with several retailers, including Walmart, reported Recode. If the discounter were to acquire Birchbox, it would be the chain's fifth e-commerce acquisition since last August.

Birchbox has raised more than $80 million from investors since it was founded in 2010, in addition to previously undisclosed venture debt that the startup secured in 2015, according to Recode. Although the debt is coming due in early 2018, Birchbox has multiple offers on the table to restructure it, which is expected to alleviate any pressure to sell.

In addition to its e-commerce site, Birchbox operates two stores, one in New York City's SoHo neighborhood, and another in Paris, which it opened in spring 2018.

The discussions of a sale come as Birchbox has been working to right its business this year following a rough 2016 that included two rounds of layoffs, Recode said.

Click here to read more.

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FINANCE

Analyst: Amazon stock to hit $1,275 per share in 2018

BY Marianne Wilson

Amazon is the "best long-term growth story available to investors today." But don't expect the company to generate meaningful profits anytime soon.

That's according to MKM Partners managing director Rob Sanderson who, on Tuesday, raised his price target on the online giant's stock to $1,275 per share, up from $1,095.

"We think investors will continue to be supportive of aggressive spending because: (1) retail and computing end-markets are massive and still appear untapped, (2) Amazon has dominant position as a disruptor, (3) the reallocation of value in these ecosystems to Amazon’s favor is tangible to investors and (4) investor confidence in management execution is as good as we have ever seen," wrote Sanderson.

In his note, Sanderson said that subscription revenue growth, a proxy for Prime adoption, grew by over 50% again in Amazon's second quarter. Also, usage of core Amazon Web Services (AWS) is accelerating.

Major investment areas for Amazon are expansion of its fulfillment network, AWS capacity and driving Prime memberships, including video.

Sanderson advised that Amazon has never been valued on near-term profit and likely won’t be until investors can see a limit on growth opportunities.

"Until then, we think revenue growth and share gain will matter more than profitability," he stated. "We do not expect Amazon will generate meaningful profits anytime soon. The company should be managed for profits until growth opportunities become more limited or more risky, in our view."

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