Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) announced its financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2015.

“Alibaba Group had an outstanding quarter, reaching a milestone of over 400 million annual active buyers and continuing our unrivaled leadership in mobile. Our proven ability to deliver an unparalleled consumer experience and to help merchants attract, engage and retain buyers will drive future growth in our core business,” said Daniel Zhang, Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group. “We remain focused on our top strategic priorities, including global imports, rural expansion, increasing our footprint in first-tier Chinese cities and building a world-class cloud computing business.”

“We had excellent results this quarter. We achieved impressive revenue growth as we are increasingly monetizing the user activity on our marketplaces, particularly on mobile devices. In this quarter, revenue grew 32% year-over-year and China retail marketplace revenue grew 35% year-over-year,” said Maggie Wu, Chief Financial Officer of Alibaba Group. “Meanwhile, we generated strong free cash flow of US$3.7 billion this quarter. The fundamental strength of our core business gives us the confidence to invest in our strategic priorities.”

Business Highlights and Strategic Updates

Significant growth in core business user base and monetization as China retail marketplace revenue increased 35% year-over-year and mobile revenue increased 192% year-over-year.

In the quarter ended December 31, 2015:

  • Revenue was RMB34,543 million (US$5,333 million), an increase of 32% year-over-year; China retail marketplace revenue was RMB28,714 million (US$4,433 million), an increase of 35% year-over-year; and mobile revenue was RMB18,746 million (US$2,894 million), an increase of 192% year-over-year;
  • Annual active buyers on our China retail marketplaces increased to 407 million, an increase of 21 million from the prior quarter, while mobile MAUs in December reached 393 million, an increase of 47 million over the prior quarter;
  • GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces was RMB964 billion (US$149 billion), an increase of 23% year-over-year (and a net addition of RMB177 billion (US$27 billion) from the same quarter of 2014), with mobile GMV accounting for 68% of total GMV;
  • Koubei, the local services joint venture we recently established with Ant Financial, is gaining strong momentum and winning market share, generating RMB15.8 billion (US$2.4 billion) in GMV transacted through Alipay during the quarter, with daily transactions averaging more than 5 million in December;
  • Our cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business continued its rapid expansion, with revenue increasing 126% year-over-year to RMB819 million (US$126 million); and
  • Non-GAAP free cash flow was RMB23,719 million (US$3,662 million).

Broader value proposition of China retail marketplaces – Our user base in terms of annual active buyers and mobile MAUs showed robust growth in the quarter. By the end of the December quarter, our annual active buyers grew to 407 million and December mobile MAUs grew to 393 million. This growth in users and our continued focus on merchant quality supported high-quality GMV growth of 23% year-over-year to RMB964 billion (US$149 billion) for the quarter, representing an absolute year-over-year increase of RMB177 billion (US$27 billion).

Today, consumers come to Taobao Marketplace and Tmall to browse for ideas, look for new trends, receive merchant and product updates, compare products, share shopping experiences and be entertained. Consumer actions on our platforms, such as browsing, reading product news feeds, searching, clicking, bookmarking and basketing, generate valuable data about user intentions. The value of such actions may not be captured by GMV, but the insights provided by these actions help merchants build their brands, acquire and engage customers and promote sales. Brands and merchants do not merely acquire buyers for a one-time sale on our platform. They build relationships with consumers that deliver lifetime value in the form of repeat purchases and brand loyalty. This lifetime value creation extends beyond the online channel, as brands are also increasingly seeing positive and lasting effects on their entire business. Accordingly, brands are beginning to embrace an integrated online and offline strategy, a trend we believe will be a key driver of our online marketing services revenue growth.

Monetization – User growth and increasing user engagement on our China retail platforms have become important drivers of our long-term revenue growth as our marketplaces deliver a broader value proposition to sellers in addition to sales generation. As a result, the blended monetization rate of our China retail marketplaces reached 2.98% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, meaningfully higher than 2.70% in the December 2014 quarter. We have witnessed a positive trend of both revenue per annual active buyer and mobile revenue per mobile user, as illustrated in the table at the end of this announcement and these charts.

We believe improving monetization in the future will be driven by the increasing value we create for customers on our platform. A growing percentage of our China commerce retail revenue will likely come from the monetization of user engagement that helps brands and merchants build long-term relationships with consumers. Accordingly, we expect revenue to grow faster than GMV for the foreseeable future.

Singles Day – The Singles Day shopping festival, which originated on Tmall in 2009, has become the biggest shopping day in the world. On November 11, 2015, we attracted over 115 million buyers to our marketplaces and enabled RMB91.2 billion (US$14 billion) in GMV settled through Alipay on our platforms. Our success on Singles Day was a testament to the scalability of our ecosystem. Our platforms processed 467 million delivery orders during a 24-hour period. Our cloud computing technology infrastructure enabled about 140,000 peak transactions processed per second. The ability to manage a surge of more than ten times our normal daily volume demonstrates how Alibaba is redefining the infrastructure for commerce.

Singles Day also meant the realization of our vision to enable shopping anytime, anywhere through mobile. On that day, 95 million mobile users made purchases on Tmall and Taobao Marketplace, demonstrating our unrivaled leadership position in mobile commerce.

Market share gains – We have taken aggressive steps to capture market share in key cities and key categories. In the December quarter, we witnessed strong year-on-year GMV growth in the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. We established mind-share gains in the first-tier cities through, among other things, Tmall Supermarket, where consumers make high-frequency purchases in groceries and everyday items, supported by delivery services by our logistics partners who offer same day delivery in seven cities and next-day delivery in 88 cities.

In consumer electronics, we leveraged Singles Day to strengthen our value proposition and branding, as 22 million consumers made purchases on Tmall’s electronics channel and we witnessed record-breaking sales of over three million cell phones that day. In large home appliances, we worked with Cainiao and its logistics partners to enhance customer experience by focusing on fast, high-quality delivery and installation services. As a result, Tmall’s large home appliances category has sustained growth that significantly outpaced overall market growth over the past several quarters. The Tmall consumer electronics channel also made exceptional progress in working with merchants that develop innovative “intelligent” devices, enabling the sale of four million smart-home devices during the December quarter. We believe these initiatives have enhanced Tmall’s position as a leading platform for consumer electronics and established share gains in this competitive category.

Rural Taobao – As of the end of the December quarter, we had a presence in over 12,000 rural villages, where we provide purchasing and delivery services. In 2016 we launched for the first time the Alibaba Chinese New Year Shopping Festival. Agricultural products from rural China will be showcased and made available to urban consumers via Rural Taobao, encouraging Chinese consumers to buy domestically produced fresh foods and other agricultural products. Currently, Rural Taobao has a presence in nearly all provinces in China.

Cloud computing – In the December quarter, revenue from our cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business continued to grow rapidly to RMB819 million (US$126 million), representing a year-over-year increase of 126%. Our cloud computing division, AliCloud, has made significant progress in the development of customers, products, technology and an ecosystem of more than 20,000 developers.

International operations – Our globalization strategy is focused on cross-border commerce that allows international brands and retailers to sell online to Chinese consumers. We are helping international brands, retailers and small businesses recognize the power of the Alibaba platform as a gateway to China consumers. On Singles Day, 30 million active buyers purchased products from over 16,000 international brands. Tmall Global, our channel dedicated to global imports, witnessed 179% year-over-year growth in the December quarter, with more than 200 international brands, including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Lululemon and Clarisonic, opening flagship stores on Tmall.

Logistics – We continue to fortify our market leadership in both major cities and rural areas in China. Through our logistics information systems affiliate Cainiao and its partners, customers enjoy same-day delivery in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuhan, and next day delivery was offered in 88 cities in the December quarter, an increase from 41 cities in the June quarter. Through efficiency gains in dispatch of parcels, inventory planning and data analytics, faster delivery time in 2015 compared to the previous year has improved customer satisfaction.

Our category specific logistics strategy is bearing fruit, with specialty services that differentiate our shopping experience from that of our competitors. Through Cainiao, we cooperated with RRS, our joint venture with Haier, to increase warehouse capacity dedicated to large appliances, allowing for more efficient inventory placement strategies for merchants. Integration of Suning’s logistics systems with Cainiao is complete, allowing for increased parcel tracking and improving customer experience. Suning cooperates with Cainiao to fulfill bulky items for Tmall Supermarket and offers installation and after-sales services through its retail outlets and service locations. In the December quarter, our last-mile delivery partner YTO Express and Best Logistics launched a service that guarantees the delivery time to customers, working closely with Cainiao to define the service standard and integrate data flow to enable delivery efficiency.

DingTalk – We have developed an innovative and fast growing entrant to the networked communication space, focused on the enterprise sector. We designed DingTalk to improve communication and collaboration among team members and enterprises of various sizes. With the built-in enterprise directory, users can easily initiate chats or conference calls with team members, as well as secured group chats. DingTalk unifies the tasks of critical communication and collaboration in the work place. As of December 31, 2015, there were over one million enterprises and organizations using DingTalk.

Free Cash Flow – We continue to generate significant free cash flow. Our cash flow allows us strategic and operational flexibility to invest in technology and acquire the resources to accomplish our strategic objectives. In the December quarter, we generated RMB23,719 million (US$3,662 million) in free cash flow.

December Quarter Operational and Financial Results*

Major Operational Metrics:

 

December 31,

2014

  September 30,

2015

  December 31,

2015

  % Change
        YoY   QoQ
                     
China Commerce Retail:                    
Annual active buyers(1) (in millions)   334     386     407     22 %   5 %
Mobile monthly active users (MAUs)(2)(in millions)   265     346     393     48 %   14 %
Quarterly GMV(3) (in RMB billions)   787     713     964     23 %   35 %
Quarterly mobile GMV(3) (in RMB billions)   327     440     651     99 %   48 %
Mobile GMV as a percentage of total GMV(3)   42 %   62 %   68 %        

______________

* For definitions of terms used but not defined in this results announcement, please refer to our annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015.

(1)   For the twelve months ended on the respective dates.
(2)   For the month ended on the respective dates.
(3)   For the three months ended on the respective dates.
     

Summary Financial Results:

    Three months ended December 31,    
    2014   2015    
    RMB   RMB   US$(1)   YoY % Change
    (in millions, except percentages and per share amounts)
                 
Revenue   26,179     34,543     5,333   32 %
Mobile revenue from China commerce retail   6,420     18,746     2,894   192 %
Mobile revenue as a percentage of China commerce retail revenue   30 %   65 %        
                 
Income from operations   9,347     12,434     1,919   33 %
Non-GAAP EBITDA(2)   15,103     19,111     2,950   27 %
Non-GAAP EBITDA margin(2)   58 %   55 %        
                 
Net income   5,983     12,456     1,923   108 %(3)
Non-GAAP net income(2)   13,115     16,358     2,525   25 %
                 
Diluted earnings per share/ADS (EPS)   2.29     4.90     0.76   114 %(3)
Non-GAAP diluted EPS(2)   5.05     6.43     0.99   27 %

_______________

(1)   This results announcement contains translation of certain Renminbi (“RMB”) amounts into U.S. dollars (“US$”) for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations of RMB into US$ were made at RMB6.4778 to US$1.00, the exchange rate set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board on December 31, 2015. The percentages stated in this release are calculated based on the RMB amounts.
(2)   See the sections entitled “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” and “Reconciliations of Non-GAAP Measures to the Nearest Comparable GAAP Measures” for more information about the non-GAAP measures referred to within this results announcement.
(3)   Includes a gain from the sale of our movie-related businesses to Alibaba Pictures in the quarter ended December 31, 2015.

Annual active buyers Our China retail marketplaces had 407 million annual active buyers in the twelve months ended December 31, 2015, compared to 386 million in the twelve months ended September 30, 2015, representing a net addition of 21 million annual active buyers, and compared to 334 million in the twelve months ended December 31, 2014, representing an increase of 22% compared to the same period in 2014. The growth in annual active buyers was driven by an increase in users accessing our platforms through mobile devices, which in turn was a result of our continuing efforts to attract users with strong commercial intent to our mobile e-commerce apps, especially our Mobile Taobao App, and convert them into active buyers with our effective mobile interface. Our active buyers increased throughout China, with continued strong growth in both first-tier and lower tier cities. In addition, both the average number of orders per active buyer and the average number of categories purchased per active buyer increased in the twelve months ended December 31, 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

Mobile MAUs – Mobile MAUs on our China retail marketplaces grew to 393 million in the month ended December 31, 2015, compared to 346 million in the month ended September 30, 2015, representing a net addition of 47 million MAUs over the quarter and a 48% increase from 265 million in the month ended December 31, 2014. The growth in mobile MAUs in this quarter was primarily due to increased promotion of our mobile apps.

GMV – GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB964 billion (US$149 billion), an increase of 23% compared to RMB787 billion in the same quarter of 2014, representing an absolute year-over-year increase of RMB177 billion (US$27 billion). GMV transacted on Taobao Marketplace in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB563 billion (US$87 billion), an increase of 14% compared to the same quarter of 2014. GMV transacted on Tmall in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB401 billion (US$62 billion), an increase of 37% compared to the same quarter of 2014. The growth of total GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces was primarily driven by an increase in the number of active buyers.

Mobile GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB651 billion (US$101 billion), an increase of 99% compared to the same quarter of 2014. Mobile GMV accounted for 68% of total GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces in this quarter, compared to 62% in the quarter ended September 30, 2015 and 42% in the quarter ended December 31, 2014. The growth was driven primarily by an increase in consumers accessing our platforms through mobile devices and also by an increase in the level of their spending.

Revenue – Revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB34,543 million (US$5,333 million), an increase of 32% compared to RMB26,179 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was mainly driven by the continued rapid growth of our China commerce retail business.

The following table sets forth a breakdown of our revenue for the periods indicated.

  Three months ended December 31,    
    2014   2015    
    RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   US$   % of Revenue   YoY % Change
    (in millions, except percentages)
China commerce:                        
Retail   21,275   82 %   28,714   4,433   83 %   35 %
Wholesale   860   3 %   1,162   179   3 %   35 %
Total China commerce   22,135   85 %   29,876   4,612   86 %   35 %
International commerce:                        
Retail   554   2 %   632   97   2 %   14 %
Wholesale   1,209   5 %   1,430   221   4 %   18 %
Total international commerce   1,763   7 %   2,062   318   6 %   17 %
Cloud computing and Internet infrastructure   362   1 %   819   126   2 %   126 %
Others   1,919   7 %   1,786   277   6 %   (7 )%
Total   26,179   100 %   34,543   5,333   100 %   32 %
                               
  • China commerce retail business – Revenue from our China commerce retail business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB28,714 million (US$4,433 million), or 83% of total revenue, an increase of 35% compared to RMB21,275 million in the same quarter of 2014. Revenue from our China commerce retail business increased at a higher rate than GMV growth on our China retail marketplaces because of the robust growth in online marketing services revenue. The growth was primarily driven by our focus on high-quality merchants and on delivering a broader value proposition to our merchants. This resulted in higher marketing spend by our merchants as we optimized online marketing efficiency and added new online marketing inventory on both mobile and PC interfaces. Commission revenue as a percentage of China commerce retail revenue was 32% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015.Mobile revenue from the China commerce retail business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB18,746 million (US$2,894 million), or 65% of our China commerce retail revenue, an increase of 192% compared to RMB6,420 million, or 30% of the China commerce retail revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. This year-over-year increase in mobile revenue in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total revenue from the China commerce retail business was due to an increase in GMV generated on mobile devices and better monetization of mobile transactions and usage.

    Our monetization rate was 2.98% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to 2.70% in the same quarter of 2014. The mobile monetization rate in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was 2.88%, compared to 1.96% in the same quarter of 2014.

  • China commerce wholesale business – Revenue from our China commerce wholesale business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,162 million (US$179 million), an increase of 35% compared to RMB860 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was due to an increase in average revenue from paying members and an increase in paying members.
  • International commerce retail business – Revenue from our international commerce retail business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB632 million (US$97 million), an increase of 14% compared to RMB554 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was primarily due to an increase in GMV transacted on AliExpress.
  • International commerce wholesale business – Revenue from our international commerce wholesale business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,430 million (US$221 million), an increase of 18% compared to RMB1,209 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was due to growth in revenue generated by the import/export related services provided by OneTouch.
  • Cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business – Revenue from our cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB819 million (US$126 million), an increase of 126% compared to RMB362 million in the same quarter of 2014, driven by the continued rapid growth of our cloud computing business. The growth was primarily due to an increase in the number of paying customers and also to an increase in their usage of our cloud computing services including more complex offerings, such as our content delivery network and database services.
  • Others – Other revenue in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,786 million (US$277 million), compared to RMB1,919 million in the same quarter of 2014. This result was primarily due to the decrease in revenue from the SME loan business that we transferred to Ant Financial in February 2015, partially offset by the increase in mobile Internet services revenue provided by our UCWeb and AutoNavi businesses. Excluding revenue from the SME loan business from both periods, other revenue would have increased 62% to RMB1,570 million in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 from RMB970 million in the same quarter of 2014.

Costs and Expenses – The following tables set forth a breakdown of our cost and expenses, share-based compensation expense and cost and expenses excluding share-based compensation expense by function for the periods indicated.

  Three months ended December 31,   % of Revenue YoY change
    2014   2015  
    RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   US$   % of Revenue  
    (in millions, except percentages)
Cost and expenses:                        
Cost of revenue   7,520   29 %   10,951   1,691   32 %   3 %
Product development expenses   3,083   12 %   3,749   579   11 %   (1 )%
Sales and marketing expenses   3,021   12 %   3,641   562   11 %   (1 )%
General and administrative expenses   2,419   9 %   2,500   386   7 %   (2 )%
Amortization of intangible assets   614   2 %   813   126   2 %   0 %
Impairment of goodwill and intangible assets   175   0 %   455   70   1 %   1 %
Total costs and expenses   16,832   64 %   22,109   3,414   64 %   0 %
                         
Share-based compensation expense by function:                        
Cost of revenue   1,413   5 %   1,467   227   4 %   (1 )%
Product development expenses   1,266   5 %   1,561   241   5 %   0 %
Sales and marketing expenses   402   2 %   492   76   2 %   0 %
General and administrative expenses   1,232   4 %   850   131   2 %   (2 )%
Total share-based compensation expense   4,313   16 %   4,370   675   13 %   (3 )%
                         
Cost and expenses excluding share-based compensation expense:                        
Cost of revenue   6,107   24 %   9,484   1,464   28 %   4 %
Product development expenses   1,817   7 %   2,188   338   6 %   (1 )%
Sales and marketing expenses   2,619   10 %   3,149  

486

  9 %   (1 )%
General and administrative expenses   1,187   5 %   1,650  

255

  5 %   0 %
Amortization of intangible assets   614   2 %   813   126   2 %   0 %
Impairment of goodwill and intangible assets   175   0 %   455   70   1 %   1 %
Total cost and expenses excluding share-based compensation expenses   12,519   48 %   17,739   2,739   51 %   3 %
  • Cost of revenue – Cost of revenue in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB10,951 million (US$1,691 million), or 32% of revenue, compared to RMB7,520 million, or 29% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, cost of revenue as a percentage of revenue increased in the quarter ended December 31, 2015. This increase was due primarily to an increase in costs associated with our new businesses initiatives (mainly our mobile operating system, over-the-top TV services and entertainment) and also to an increase in traffic acquisition cost as a result of the expansion of our third-party affiliate marketing program operated by Alimama.
  • Product development expenses – Product development expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB3,749 million (US$579 million), or 11% of revenue, compared to RMB3,083 million, or 12% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, product development expenses as a percentage of revenue would have decreased in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, which reflected our operating leverage.
  • Sales and marketing expenses – Sales and marketing expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB3,641 million (US$562 million), or 11% of revenue, compared to RMB3,021 million, or 12% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, sales and marketing expenses as a percentage of revenue would have decreased in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, which reflected our operating leverage.
  • General and administrative expenses – General and administrative expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB2,500 million (US$386 million), or 7% of revenue, compared to RMB2,419 million, or 9% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of revenue in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 would have remained stable compared to the same quarter of 2014.
  • Share-based compensation expense – Share-based compensation expense included in cost and expense items above in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB4,370 million (US$675 million), or 13% of revenue, compared to RMB4,313 million, or 16% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. The following table sets forth our analysis of share-based compensation expense for the quarters indicated by type of share-based awards:
  Three months ended        
            December 31, 2014   September 30, 2015   December 31, 2015   % Change
            RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   US$   % of Revenue   YoY   QoQ
            (in millions, except percentages)
        By type of awards:    
        Alibaba Group share-based awards granted to:                                    
       

– Our employees

  2,310   9 %   2,231     10 %   2,628   406   8 %   14 %   18 %
       

– Ant Financial employees and other consultants*

  822   3 %   (194 )   (1 )%   671   104   2 %   (18 )%   N/A  
        Ant Financial share-based awards granted to our employees*   1,181   4 %   1,127     5 %   1,071   165   3 %   (9 )%   (5 )%
        Total share-based compensation expense   4,313   16 %   3,164     14 %   4,370   675   13 %   1 %   38 %
        ___________________

* Awards subject to mark-to-market accounting treatment.

         

Share-based compensation expense related to Alibaba Group share-based awards granted to our employees increased in this quarter compared to the previous quarter. This increase reflected the full quarter effect of the expense arising from the annual performance-based awards for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015 that we granted in late August 2015.

The expense arising from Ant Financial’s share-based awards granted to our employees represented a non-cash charge that will not result in any economic cost or equity dilution to our shareholders. It is the view of our Chairman, Jack Ma, who controls Ant Financial, that the grant of Ant Financial equity awards to our employees will benefit Alibaba Group because of the strategic importance of Ant Financial as a payment service provider to us and our significant participation in the profits and value accretion of Ant Financial through our agreements with Ant Financial. Excluding the expense related to Ant Financial’s share-based awards, our share-based compensation expense would have been RMB3,132 million, RMB2,037 million and RMB3,299 million (US$510 million) in the quarters ended December 31, 2014, September 30, 2015 and December 31, 2015, respectively.

We expect that our share-based compensation expense will continue to be affected by changes in fair value of our shares and share-based awards of Ant Financial, as well as the quantity of awards we grant to our employees and consultants in the future. Furthermore, we expect that our share-based compensation expense will likely increase, primarily due to anticipated increases in the fair value of share-based awards of Ant Financial, although any such share-based compensation expense increase would be non-cash and would not result in any economic cost or equity dilution to our shareholders.

  • Amortization of intangible assets – Amortization of intangible assets in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB813 million (US$126 million), an increase of 32% from RMB614 million in the same quarter of 2014. This increase was due to an increase in intangible assets recognized arising from our strategic acquisitions and investments.

Income from operations – Income from operations in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB12,434 million (US$1,919 million), or 36% of revenue, an increase of 33% compared to RMB9,347 million, or 36% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014.

Non-GAAP EBITDA and Non-GAAP EBITDA margin – Non-GAAP EBITDA increased by 27% to RMB19,111 million (US$2,950 million) in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to RMB15,103 million in the same quarter of 2014. Non-GAAP EBITDA margin decreased to 55% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 from 58% in the same quarter of 2014. We will continue to invest a portion of our free cash flow in new businesses and acquired businesses, and the growth of our new investment spending may be higher than our overall revenue growth. A reconciliation of income from operations to non-GAAP EBITDA is included at the end of this results announcement.

Interest and investment income, net – Interest and investment income, net in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB2,944 million (US$455 million), a significant increase from RMB313 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was primarily due to a gain arising from the sale of our movie-related businesses to Alibaba Pictures, as well as gains from disposals of certain investments, partially offset by impairment of certain investments recognized during the quarter.

Interest expense – Interest expense in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB475 million (US$73 million), a decrease of 65% compared to RMB1,344 million in the same quarter of 2014. Interest expense in the quarter ended December 31, 2014 included an RMB830 million one-time charge for financing-related fees as a result of the early repayment of our US$8 billion bank borrowings with proceeds from our issuance of US$8 billion senior unsecured notes. Without this one-time charge, interest expense in the quarter ended December 31, 2014 would have been RMB514 million.

Other income, net – Other income, net in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,607 million (US$248 million), an increase of 78% compared to RMB901 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was primarily due to an increase in exchange gains and an increase in royalty fees and software technology services fees received from Ant Financial, which were RMB502 million (US$77 million) in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to RMB411 million in the same quarter of 2014.

Income tax expenses – Income tax expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB3,559 million (US$549 million), an increase of 47% compared to RMB2,429 million in the same quarter of 2014. Our effective tax rate decreased to 22% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 from 26% in the same quarter of 2014. Excluding share-based compensation expense, impairment of goodwill, intangible assets and investments, as well as other unrealized investment gain/loss, our effective tax rate would have been 16% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to 17% in the same quarter of 2014.

Net income and Non-GAAP net income – As a result of the foregoing, our net income in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB12,456 million (US$1,923 million), an increase of 108% compared to RMB5,983 million in the same quarter of 2014. Non-GAAP net income in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB16,358 million (US$2,525 million), an increase of 25% compared to RMB13,115 million in the same quarter of 2014. A reconciliation of net income to non-GAAP net income is included at the end of this results announcement.

Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders – Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB12,498 million (US$1,929 million), an increase of 111% compared to RMB5,936 million in the same quarter of 2014.

Diluted EPS and non-GAAP diluted EPS – Diluted EPS in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB4.90 (US$0.76) on a weighted average of 2,550 million diluted shares outstanding during the quarter, an increase of 114% compared to RMB2.29 on a weighted average of 2,588 million diluted shares outstanding during the same quarter of 2014. Non-GAAP diluted EPS in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB6.43 (US$0.99), an increase of 27% compared to RMB5.05 in the same quarter of 2014. A reconciliation of diluted EPS to non-GAAP diluted EPS is included at the end of this results announcement.

Cash, cash equivalent and short-term investments – As of December 31, 2015, cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments were RMB118,323 million (US$18,266 million), compared to RMB105,691 million as of September 30, 2015.

Cash flow from operating activities and free cash flow – Net cash provided by operating activities in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB26,230 million (US$4,049 million), an increase of 35% compared to RMB19,408 million in the same quarter of 2014. Free cash flow, a non-GAAP measurement of liquidity, in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB23,719 million (US$3,662 million), compared to RMB22,924 million in the same quarter of 2014. A reconciliation of net cash provided by operating activities to free cash flow is included at the end of this results announcement.

Net cash used in investing activities – During the quarter ended December 31, 2015, net cash used in investing activities of RMB14,271 million (US$2,203 million) mainly included investment and acquisition activities of RMB14,074 million (US$2,173 million) primarily in media, emerging technologies, ecommerce, travel and local services, as well as capital expenditures of RMB4,896 million (US$756 million), which included cash outflow for acquisition of land use rights and construction in progress of RMB2,531 million (US$391 million).

Employees – As of December 31, 2015, we had a total of 36,465 employees, compared to 36,662 as of September 30, 2015 and 34,081 as of December 31, 2014.

announced its financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2015.

“Alibaba Group had an outstanding quarter, reaching a milestone of over 400 million annual active buyers and continuing our unrivaled leadership in mobile. Our proven ability to deliver an unparalleled consumer experience and to help merchants attract, engage and retain buyers will drive future growth in our core business,” said Daniel Zhang, Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group. “We remain focused on our top strategic priorities, including global imports, rural expansion, increasing our footprint in first-tier Chinese cities and building a world-class cloud computing business.”

“We had excellent results this quarter. We achieved impressive revenue growth as we are increasingly monetizing the user activity on our marketplaces, particularly on mobile devices. In this quarter, revenue grew 32% year-over-year and China retail marketplace revenue grew 35% year-over-year,” said Maggie Wu, Chief Financial Officer of Alibaba Group. “Meanwhile, we generated strong free cash flow of US$3.7 billion this quarter. The fundamental strength of our core business gives us the confidence to invest in our strategic priorities.”

Business Highlights and Strategic Updates

Significant growth in core business user base and monetization as China retail marketplace revenue increased 35% year-over-year and mobile revenue increased 192% year-over-year.

In the quarter ended December 31, 2015:

  • Revenue was RMB34,543 million (US$5,333 million), an increase of 32% year-over-year; China retail marketplace revenue was RMB28,714 million (US$4,433 million), an increase of 35% year-over-year; and mobile revenue was RMB18,746 million (US$2,894 million), an increase of 192% year-over-year;
  • Annual active buyers on our China retail marketplaces increased to 407 million, an increase of 21 million from the prior quarter, while mobile MAUs in December reached 393 million, an increase of 47 million over the prior quarter;
  • GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces was RMB964 billion (US$149 billion), an increase of 23% year-over-year (and a net addition of RMB177 billion (US$27 billion) from the same quarter of 2014), with mobile GMV accounting for 68% of total GMV;
  • Koubei, the local services joint venture we recently established with Ant Financial, is gaining strong momentum and winning market share, generating RMB15.8 billion (US$2.4 billion) in GMV transacted through Alipay during the quarter, with daily transactions averaging more than 5 million in December;
  • Our cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business continued its rapid expansion, with revenue increasing 126% year-over-year to RMB819 million (US$126 million); and
  • Non-GAAP free cash flow was RMB23,719 million (US$3,662 million).

Broader value proposition of China retail marketplaces – Our user base in terms of annual active buyers and mobile MAUs showed robust growth in the quarter. By the end of the December quarter, our annual active buyers grew to 407 million and December mobile MAUs grew to 393 million. This growth in users and our continued focus on merchant quality supported high-quality GMV growth of 23% year-over-year to RMB964 billion (US$149 billion) for the quarter, representing an absolute year-over-year increase of RMB177 billion (US$27 billion).

Today, consumers come to Taobao Marketplace and Tmall to browse for ideas, look for new trends, receive merchant and product updates, compare products, share shopping experiences and be entertained. Consumer actions on our platforms, such as browsing, reading product news feeds, searching, clicking, bookmarking and basketing, generate valuable data about user intentions. The value of such actions may not be captured by GMV, but the insights provided by these actions help merchants build their brands, acquire and engage customers and promote sales. Brands and merchants do not merely acquire buyers for a one-time sale on our platform. They build relationships with consumers that deliver lifetime value in the form of repeat purchases and brand loyalty. This lifetime value creation extends beyond the online channel, as brands are also increasingly seeing positive and lasting effects on their entire business. Accordingly, brands are beginning to embrace an integrated online and offline strategy, a trend we believe will be a key driver of our online marketing services revenue growth.

Monetization – User growth and increasing user engagement on our China retail platforms have become important drivers of our long-term revenue growth as our marketplaces deliver a broader value proposition to sellers in addition to sales generation. As a result, the blended monetization rate of our China retail marketplaces reached 2.98% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, meaningfully higher than 2.70% in the December 2014 quarter. We have witnessed a positive trend of both revenue per annual active buyer and mobile revenue per mobile user, as illustrated in the table at the end of this announcement and these charts.

We believe improving monetization in the future will be driven by the increasing value we create for customers on our platform. A growing percentage of our China commerce retail revenue will likely come from the monetization of user engagement that helps brands and merchants build long-term relationships with consumers. Accordingly, we expect revenue to grow faster than GMV for the foreseeable future.

Singles Day – The Singles Day shopping festival, which originated on Tmall in 2009, has become the biggest shopping day in the world. On November 11, 2015, we attracted over 115 million buyers to our marketplaces and enabled RMB91.2 billion (US$14 billion) in GMV settled through Alipay on our platforms. Our success on Singles Day was a testament to the scalability of our ecosystem. Our platforms processed 467 million delivery orders during a 24-hour period. Our cloud computing technology infrastructure enabled about 140,000 peak transactions processed per second. The ability to manage a surge of more than ten times our normal daily volume demonstrates how Alibaba is redefining the infrastructure for commerce.

Singles Day also meant the realization of our vision to enable shopping anytime, anywhere through mobile. On that day, 95 million mobile users made purchases on Tmall and Taobao Marketplace, demonstrating our unrivaled leadership position in mobile commerce.

Market share gains – We have taken aggressive steps to capture market share in key cities and key categories. In the December quarter, we witnessed strong year-on-year GMV growth in the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. We established mind-share gains in the first-tier cities through, among other things, Tmall Supermarket, where consumers make high-frequency purchases in groceries and everyday items, supported by delivery services by our logistics partners who offer same day delivery in seven cities and next-day delivery in 88 cities.

In consumer electronics, we leveraged Singles Day to strengthen our value proposition and branding, as 22 million consumers made purchases on Tmall’s electronics channel and we witnessed record-breaking sales of over three million cell phones that day. In large home appliances, we worked with Cainiao and its logistics partners to enhance customer experience by focusing on fast, high-quality delivery and installation services. As a result, Tmall’s large home appliances category has sustained growth that significantly outpaced overall market growth over the past several quarters. The Tmall consumer electronics channel also made exceptional progress in working with merchants that develop innovative “intelligent” devices, enabling the sale of four million smart-home devices during the December quarter. We believe these initiatives have enhanced Tmall’s position as a leading platform for consumer electronics and established share gains in this competitive category.

Rural Taobao – As of the end of the December quarter, we had a presence in over 12,000 rural villages, where we provide purchasing and delivery services. In 2016 we launched for the first time the Alibaba Chinese New Year Shopping Festival. Agricultural products from rural China will be showcased and made available to urban consumers via Rural Taobao, encouraging Chinese consumers to buy domestically produced fresh foods and other agricultural products. Currently, Rural Taobao has a presence in nearly all provinces in China.

Cloud computing – In the December quarter, revenue from our cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business continued to grow rapidly to RMB819 million (US$126 million), representing a year-over-year increase of 126%. Our cloud computing division, AliCloud, has made significant progress in the development of customers, products, technology and an ecosystem of more than 20,000 developers.

International operations – Our globalization strategy is focused on cross-border commerce that allows international brands and retailers to sell online to Chinese consumers. We are helping international brands, retailers and small businesses recognize the power of the Alibaba platform as a gateway to China consumers. On Singles Day, 30 million active buyers purchased products from over 16,000 international brands. Tmall Global, our channel dedicated to global imports, witnessed 179% year-over-year growth in the December quarter, with more than 200 international brands, including Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Lululemon and Clarisonic, opening flagship stores on Tmall.

Logistics – We continue to fortify our market leadership in both major cities and rural areas in China. Through our logistics information systems affiliate Cainiao and its partners, customers enjoy same-day delivery in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuhan, and next day delivery was offered in 88 cities in the December quarter, an increase from 41 cities in the June quarter. Through efficiency gains in dispatch of parcels, inventory planning and data analytics, faster delivery time in 2015 compared to the previous year has improved customer satisfaction.

Our category specific logistics strategy is bearing fruit, with specialty services that differentiate our shopping experience from that of our competitors. Through Cainiao, we cooperated with RRS, our joint venture with Haier, to increase warehouse capacity dedicated to large appliances, allowing for more efficient inventory placement strategies for merchants. Integration of Suning’s logistics systems with Cainiao is complete, allowing for increased parcel tracking and improving customer experience. Suning cooperates with Cainiao to fulfill bulky items for Tmall Supermarket and offers installation and after-sales services through its retail outlets and service locations. In the December quarter, our last-mile delivery partner YTO Express and Best Logistics launched a service that guarantees the delivery time to customers, working closely with Cainiao to define the service standard and integrate data flow to enable delivery efficiency.

DingTalk – We have developed an innovative and fast growing entrant to the networked communication space, focused on the enterprise sector. We designed DingTalk to improve communication and collaboration among team members and enterprises of various sizes. With the built-in enterprise directory, users can easily initiate chats or conference calls with team members, as well as secured group chats. DingTalk unifies the tasks of critical communication and collaboration in the work place. As of December 31, 2015, there were over one million enterprises and organizations using DingTalk.

Free Cash Flow – We continue to generate significant free cash flow. Our cash flow allows us strategic and operational flexibility to invest in technology and acquire the resources to accomplish our strategic objectives. In the December quarter, we generated RMB23,719 million (US$3,662 million) in free cash flow.

December Quarter Operational and Financial Results*

Major Operational Metrics:

 

December 31,

2014

  September 30,

2015

  December 31,

2015

  % Change
        YoY   QoQ
                     
China Commerce Retail:                    
Annual active buyers(1) (in millions)   334     386     407     22 %   5 %
Mobile monthly active users (MAUs)(2)(in millions)   265     346     393     48 %   14 %
Quarterly GMV(3) (in RMB billions)   787     713     964     23 %   35 %
Quarterly mobile GMV(3) (in RMB billions)   327     440     651     99 %   48 %
Mobile GMV as a percentage of total GMV(3)   42 %   62 %   68 %        

______________

* For definitions of terms used but not defined in this results announcement, please refer to our annual report on Form 20-F for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015.

(1)   For the twelve months ended on the respective dates.
(2)   For the month ended on the respective dates.
(3)   For the three months ended on the respective dates.
     

Summary Financial Results:

  Three months ended December 31,    
    2014   2015    
    RMB   RMB   US$(1)   YoY % Change
    (in millions, except percentages and per share amounts)
                 
Revenue   26,179     34,543     5,333   32 %
Mobile revenue from China commerce retail   6,420     18,746     2,894   192 %
Mobile revenue as a percentage of China commerce retail revenue   30 %   65 %        
                 
Income from operations   9,347     12,434     1,919   33 %
Non-GAAP EBITDA(2)   15,103     19,111     2,950   27 %
Non-GAAP EBITDA margin(2)   58 %   55 %        
                 
Net income   5,983     12,456     1,923   108 %(3)
Non-GAAP net income(2)   13,115     16,358     2,525   25 %
                 
Diluted earnings per share/ADS (EPS)   2.29     4.90     0.76   114 %(3)
Non-GAAP diluted EPS(2)   5.05     6.43     0.99   27 %

_______________

(1)   This results announcement contains translation of certain Renminbi (“RMB”) amounts into U.S. dollars (“US$”) for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise stated, all translations of RMB into US$ were made at RMB6.4778 to US$1.00, the exchange rate set forth in the H.10 statistical release of the Federal Reserve Board on December 31, 2015. The percentages stated in this release are calculated based on the RMB amounts.
(2)   See the sections entitled “Non-GAAP Financial Measures” and “Reconciliations of Non-GAAP Measures to the Nearest Comparable GAAP Measures” for more information about the non-GAAP measures referred to within this results announcement.
(3)   Includes a gain from the sale of our movie-related businesses to Alibaba Pictures in the quarter ended December 31, 2015.

Annual active buyers Our China retail marketplaces had 407 million annual active buyers in the twelve months ended December 31, 2015, compared to 386 million in the twelve months ended September 30, 2015, representing a net addition of 21 million annual active buyers, and compared to 334 million in the twelve months ended December 31, 2014, representing an increase of 22% compared to the same period in 2014. The growth in annual active buyers was driven by an increase in users accessing our platforms through mobile devices, which in turn was a result of our continuing efforts to attract users with strong commercial intent to our mobile e-commerce apps, especially our Mobile Taobao App, and convert them into active buyers with our effective mobile interface. Our active buyers increased throughout China, with continued strong growth in both first-tier and lower tier cities. In addition, both the average number of orders per active buyer and the average number of categories purchased per active buyer increased in the twelve months ended December 31, 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

Mobile MAUs – Mobile MAUs on our China retail marketplaces grew to 393 million in the month ended December 31, 2015, compared to 346 million in the month ended September 30, 2015, representing a net addition of 47 million MAUs over the quarter and a 48% increase from 265 million in the month ended December 31, 2014. The growth in mobile MAUs in this quarter was primarily due to increased promotion of our mobile apps.

GMV – GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB964 billion (US$149 billion), an increase of 23% compared to RMB787 billion in the same quarter of 2014, representing an absolute year-over-year increase of RMB177 billion (US$27 billion). GMV transacted on Taobao Marketplace in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB563 billion (US$87 billion), an increase of 14% compared to the same quarter of 2014. GMV transacted on Tmall in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB401 billion (US$62 billion), an increase of 37% compared to the same quarter of 2014. The growth of total GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces was primarily driven by an increase in the number of active buyers.

Mobile GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB651 billion (US$101 billion), an increase of 99% compared to the same quarter of 2014. Mobile GMV accounted for 68% of total GMV transacted on our China retail marketplaces in this quarter, compared to 62% in the quarter ended September 30, 2015 and 42% in the quarter ended December 31, 2014. The growth was driven primarily by an increase in consumers accessing our platforms through mobile devices and also by an increase in the level of their spending.

Revenue – Revenue for the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB34,543 million (US$5,333 million), an increase of 32% compared to RMB26,179 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was mainly driven by the continued rapid growth of our China commerce retail business.

The following table sets forth a breakdown of our revenue for the periods indicated.

  Three months ended December 31,    
    2014   2015    
    RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   US$   % of Revenue   YoY % Change
    (in millions, except percentages)
China commerce:                        
Retail   21,275   82 %   28,714   4,433   83 %   35 %
Wholesale   860   3 %   1,162   179   3 %   35 %
Total China commerce   22,135   85 %   29,876   4,612   86 %   35 %
International commerce:                        
Retail   554   2 %   632   97   2 %   14 %
Wholesale   1,209   5 %   1,430   221   4 %   18 %
Total international commerce   1,763   7 %   2,062   318   6 %   17 %
Cloud computing and Internet infrastructure   362   1 %   819   126   2 %   126 %
Others   1,919   7 %   1,786   277   6 %   (7 )%
Total   26,179   100 %   34,543   5,333   100 %   32 %
                               

 

  • China commerce retail business – Revenue from our China commerce retail business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB28,714 million (US$4,433 million), or 83% of total revenue, an increase of 35% compared to RMB21,275 million in the same quarter of 2014. Revenue from our China commerce retail business increased at a higher rate than GMV growth on our China retail marketplaces because of the robust growth in online marketing services revenue. The growth was primarily driven by our focus on high-quality merchants and on delivering a broader value proposition to our merchants. This resulted in higher marketing spend by our merchants as we optimized online marketing efficiency and added new online marketing inventory on both mobile and PC interfaces. Commission revenue as a percentage of China commerce retail revenue was 32% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015.Mobile revenue from the China commerce retail business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB18,746 million (US$2,894 million), or 65% of our China commerce retail revenue, an increase of 192% compared to RMB6,420 million, or 30% of the China commerce retail revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. This year-over-year increase in mobile revenue in both absolute terms and as a percentage of total revenue from the China commerce retail business was due to an increase in GMV generated on mobile devices and better monetization of mobile transactions and usage.

    Our monetization rate was 2.98% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to 2.70% in the same quarter of 2014. The mobile monetization rate in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was 2.88%, compared to 1.96% in the same quarter of 2014.

  • China commerce wholesale business – Revenue from our China commerce wholesale business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,162 million (US$179 million), an increase of 35% compared to RMB860 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was due to an increase in average revenue from paying members and an increase in paying members.
  • International commerce retail business – Revenue from our international commerce retail business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB632 million (US$97 million), an increase of 14% compared to RMB554 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was primarily due to an increase in GMV transacted on AliExpress.
  • International commerce wholesale business – Revenue from our international commerce wholesale business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,430 million (US$221 million), an increase of 18% compared to RMB1,209 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was due to growth in revenue generated by the import/export related services provided by OneTouch.
  • Cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business – Revenue from our cloud computing and Internet infrastructure business in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB819 million (US$126 million), an increase of 126% compared to RMB362 million in the same quarter of 2014, driven by the continued rapid growth of our cloud computing business. The growth was primarily due to an increase in the number of paying customers and also to an increase in their usage of our cloud computing services including more complex offerings, such as our content delivery network and database services.
  • Others – Other revenue in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,786 million (US$277 million), compared to RMB1,919 million in the same quarter of 2014. This result was primarily due to the decrease in revenue from the SME loan business that we transferred to Ant Financial in February 2015, partially offset by the increase in mobile Internet services revenue provided by our UCWeb and AutoNavi businesses. Excluding revenue from the SME loan business from both periods, other revenue would have increased 62% to RMB1,570 million in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 from RMB970 million in the same quarter of 2014.

Costs and Expenses – The following tables set forth a breakdown of our cost and expenses, share-based compensation expense and cost and expenses excluding share-based compensation expense by function for the periods indicated.

  Three months ended December 31,   % of Revenue YoY change
    2014   2015  
    RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   US$   % of Revenue  
    (in millions, except percentages)
Cost and expenses:                        
Cost of revenue   7,520   29 %   10,951   1,691   32 %   3 %
Product development expenses   3,083   12 %   3,749   579   11 %   (1 )%
Sales and marketing expenses   3,021   12 %   3,641   562   11 %   (1 )%
General and administrative expenses   2,419   9 %   2,500   386   7 %   (2 )%
Amortization of intangible assets   614   2 %   813   126   2 %   0 %
Impairment of goodwill and intangible assets   175   0 %   455   70   1 %   1 %
Total costs and expenses   16,832   64 %   22,109   3,414   64 %   0 %
                         
Share-based compensation expense by function:                        
Cost of revenue   1,413   5 %   1,467   227   4 %   (1 )%
Product development expenses   1,266   5 %   1,561   241   5 %   0 %
Sales and marketing expenses   402   2 %   492   76   2 %   0 %
General and administrative expenses   1,232   4 %   850   131   2 %   (2 )%
Total share-based compensation expense   4,313   16 %   4,370   675   13 %   (3 )%
                         
Cost and expenses excluding share-based compensation expense:                        
Cost of revenue   6,107   24 %   9,484   1,464   28 %   4 %
Product development expenses   1,817   7 %   2,188   338   6 %   (1 )%
Sales and marketing expenses   2,619   10 %   3,149  

486

  9 %   (1 )%
General and administrative expenses   1,187   5 %   1,650  

255

  5 %   0 %
Amortization of intangible assets   614   2 %   813   126   2 %   0 %
Impairment of goodwill and intangible assets   175   0 %   455   70   1 %   1 %
Total cost and expenses excluding share-based compensation expenses   12,519   48 %   17,739   2,739   51 %   3 %
                               
  • Cost of revenue – Cost of revenue in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB10,951 million (US$1,691 million), or 32% of revenue, compared to RMB7,520 million, or 29% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, cost of revenue as a percentage of revenue increased in the quarter ended December 31, 2015. This increase was due primarily to an increase in costs associated with our new businesses initiatives (mainly our mobile operating system, over-the-top TV services and entertainment) and also to an increase in traffic acquisition cost as a result of the expansion of our third-party affiliate marketing program operated by Alimama.
  • Product development expenses – Product development expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB3,749 million (US$579 million), or 11% of revenue, compared to RMB3,083 million, or 12% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, product development expenses as a percentage of revenue would have decreased in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, which reflected our operating leverage.
  • Sales and marketing expenses – Sales and marketing expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB3,641 million (US$562 million), or 11% of revenue, compared to RMB3,021 million, or 12% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, sales and marketing expenses as a percentage of revenue would have decreased in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, which reflected our operating leverage.
  • General and administrative expenses – General and administrative expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB2,500 million (US$386 million), or 7% of revenue, compared to RMB2,419 million, or 9% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. Without the effect of share-based compensation expense, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of revenue in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 would have remained stable compared to the same quarter of 2014.
  • Share-based compensation expense – Share-based compensation expense included in cost and expense items above in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB4,370 million (US$675 million), or 13% of revenue, compared to RMB4,313 million, or 16% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014. The following table sets forth our analysis of share-based compensation expense for the quarters indicated by type of share-based awards:

 

  Three months ended        
            December 31, 2014   September 30, 2015   December 31, 2015   % Change
            RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   % of Revenue   RMB   US$   % of Revenue   YoY   QoQ
            (in millions, except percentages)
        By type of awards:    
        Alibaba Group share-based awards granted to:                                    
       

– Our employees

  2,310   9 %   2,231     10 %   2,628   406   8 %   14 %   18 %
       

– Ant Financial employees and other consultants*

  822   3 %   (194 )   (1 )%   671   104   2 %   (18 )%   N/A  
        Ant Financial share-based awards granted to our employees*   1,181   4 %   1,127     5 %   1,071   165   3 %   (9 )%   (5 )%
        Total share-based compensation expense   4,313   16 %   3,164     14 %   4,370   675   13 %   1 %   38 %
        ___________________

* Awards subject to mark-to-market accounting treatment.

Share-based compensation expense related to Alibaba Group share-based awards granted to our employees increased in this quarter compared to the previous quarter. This increase reflected the full quarter effect of the expense arising from the annual performance-based awards for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015 that we granted in late August 2015.

The expense arising from Ant Financial’s share-based awards granted to our employees represented a non-cash charge that will not result in any economic cost or equity dilution to our shareholders. It is the view of our Chairman, Jack Ma, who controls Ant Financial, that the grant of Ant Financial equity awards to our employees will benefit Alibaba Group because of the strategic importance of Ant Financial as a payment service provider to us and our significant participation in the profits and value accretion of Ant Financial through our agreements with Ant Financial. Excluding the expense related to Ant Financial’s share-based awards, our share-based compensation expense would have been RMB3,132 million, RMB2,037 million and RMB3,299 million (US$510 million) in the quarters ended December 31, 2014, September 30, 2015 and December 31, 2015, respectively.

We expect that our share-based compensation expense will continue to be affected by changes in fair value of our shares and share-based awards of Ant Financial, as well as the quantity of awards we grant to our employees and consultants in the future. Furthermore, we expect that our share-based compensation expense will likely increase, primarily due to anticipated increases in the fair value of share-based awards of Ant Financial, although any such share-based compensation expense increase would be non-cash and would not result in any economic cost or equity dilution to our shareholders.

  • Amortization of intangible assets – Amortization of intangible assets in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB813 million (US$126 million), an increase of 32% from RMB614 million in the same quarter of 2014. This increase was due to an increase in intangible assets recognized arising from our strategic acquisitions and investments.

Income from operations – Income from operations in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB12,434 million (US$1,919 million), or 36% of revenue, an increase of 33% compared to RMB9,347 million, or 36% of revenue, in the same quarter of 2014.

Non-GAAP EBITDA and Non-GAAP EBITDA margin – Non-GAAP EBITDA increased by 27% to RMB19,111 million (US$2,950 million) in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to RMB15,103 million in the same quarter of 2014. Non-GAAP EBITDA margin decreased to 55% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 from 58% in the same quarter of 2014. We will continue to invest a portion of our free cash flow in new businesses and acquired businesses, and the growth of our new investment spending may be higher than our overall revenue growth. A reconciliation of income from operations to non-GAAP EBITDA is included at the end of this results announcement.

Interest and investment income, net – Interest and investment income, net in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB2,944 million (US$455 million), a significant increase from RMB313 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was primarily due to a gain arising from the sale of our movie-related businesses to Alibaba Pictures, as well as gains from disposals of certain investments, partially offset by impairment of certain investments recognized during the quarter.

Interest expense – Interest expense in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB475 million (US$73 million), a decrease of 65% compared to RMB1,344 million in the same quarter of 2014. Interest expense in the quarter ended December 31, 2014 included an RMB830 million one-time charge for financing-related fees as a result of the early repayment of our US$8 billion bank borrowings with proceeds from our issuance of US$8 billion senior unsecured notes. Without this one-time charge, interest expense in the quarter ended December 31, 2014 would have been RMB514 million.

Other income, net – Other income, net in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB1,607 million (US$248 million), an increase of 78% compared to RMB901 million in the same quarter of 2014. The increase was primarily due to an increase in exchange gains and an increase in royalty fees and software technology services fees received from Ant Financial, which were RMB502 million (US$77 million) in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to RMB411 million in the same quarter of 2014.

Income tax expenses – Income tax expenses in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 were RMB3,559 million (US$549 million), an increase of 47% compared to RMB2,429 million in the same quarter of 2014. Our effective tax rate decreased to 22% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 from 26% in the same quarter of 2014. Excluding share-based compensation expense, impairment of goodwill, intangible assets and investments, as well as other unrealized investment gain/loss, our effective tax rate would have been 16% in the quarter ended December 31, 2015, compared to 17% in the same quarter of 2014.

Net income and Non-GAAP net income – As a result of the foregoing, our net income in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB12,456 million (US$1,923 million), an increase of 108% compared to RMB5,983 million in the same quarter of 2014. Non-GAAP net income in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB16,358 million (US$2,525 million), an increase of 25% compared to RMB13,115 million in the same quarter of 2014. A reconciliation of net income to non-GAAP net income is included at the end of this results announcement.

Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders – Net income attributable to ordinary shareholders in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB12,498 million (US$1,929 million), an increase of 111% compared to RMB5,936 million in the same quarter of 2014.

Diluted EPS and non-GAAP diluted EPS – Diluted EPS in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB4.90 (US$0.76) on a weighted average of 2,550 million diluted shares outstanding during the quarter, an increase of 114% compared to RMB2.29 on a weighted average of 2,588 million diluted shares outstanding during the same quarter of 2014. Non-GAAP diluted EPS in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB6.43 (US$0.99), an increase of 27% compared to RMB5.05 in the same quarter of 2014. A reconciliation of diluted EPS to non-GAAP diluted EPS is included at the end of this results announcement.

Cash, cash equivalent and short-term investments – As of December 31, 2015, cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments were RMB118,323 million (US$18,266 million), compared to RMB105,691 million as of September 30, 2015.

Cash flow from operating activities and free cash flow – Net cash provided by operating activities in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB26,230 million (US$4,049 million), an increase of 35% compared to RMB19,408 million in the same quarter of 2014. Free cash flow, a non-GAAP measurement of liquidity, in the quarter ended December 31, 2015 was RMB23,719 million (US$3,662 million), compared to RMB22,924 million in the same quarter of 2014. A reconciliation of net cash provided by operating activities to free cash flow is included at the end of this results announcement.

Net cash used in investing activities – During the quarter ended December 31, 2015, net cash used in investing activities of RMB14,271 million (US$2,203 million) mainly included investment and acquisition activities of RMB14,074 million (US$2,173 million) primarily in media, emerging technologies, ecommerce, travel and local services, as well as capital expenditures of RMB4,896 million (US$756 million), which included cash outflow for acquisition of land use rights and construction in progress of RMB2,531 million (US$391 million).

Employees – As of December 31, 2015, we had a total of 36,465 employees, compared to 36,662 as of September 30, 2015 and 34,081 as of December 31, 2014. (Original Source)

Shares of Alibaba are up 7.31% to $71.80 in pre-market trading. BABA has a 1-year high of $101.49 and a 1-year low of $57.20. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $77.15 and its 200-day moving average is $74.88.

On the ratings front, Alibaba has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report released yesterday, Bernstein Research analyst Carlos Kirjner maintained a Buy rating on BABA, with a price target of $110, which represents a potential upside of 58.2% from where the stock is currently trading. Separately, on January 26, Suntrust Robinson Humphrey’s Robert Peck reiterated a Buy rating on the stock and has a price target of $100.

According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Carlos Kirjner and Robert Peck have a total average return of -0.7% and 1.2% respectively. Kirjner has a success rate of 56.8% and is ranked #2168 out of 3596 analysts, while Peck has a success rate of 41.8% and is ranked #1115.

The street is mostly Bullish on BABA stock. Out of 18 analysts who cover the stock, 17 suggest a Buy rating and one recommends to Hold the stock. The 12-month average price target assigned to the stock is $91.82, which represents a potential upside of 32.0% from where the stock is currently trading.