Alibaba reveals $6 bln share buyback as misses EPS forecast

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Alibaba generated CNY10 billion of free cash flow in fiscal 2017 and announced a $6 billion share buyback to offset stock option grants.

Alibaba posted a record year of revenue for 2016, tapping into the booming Chinese e-commerce market.

Alibaba's total revenue rose about 60 percent to 38.58 billion yuan ($5.60 billion) in the quarter ended March 31, versus an average forecast of 36 billion yuan according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

On Wednesday morning, meanwhile, Tencent reported first quarter revenue of RMB49.6 billion (up 55%, equal to $7.2 billion) and net income of RMB14.5 billion (up 58% and equal to $2.1 billion), beating consensus estimates of RMB46.4 billion ($6.7 billion) and RMB13 billion ($1.9 billion), respectively.

"Our robust results demonstrate the strength of our core businesses, as well as the positive momentum of our emerging businesses, including cloud computing, where we continue to see strong growth and market leadership".

In retailing, Alibaba said it was focused on expanding its operations overseas, and would invest in artificial intelligence to develop technologies that would boost consumer spending on its existing platforms. Its Tmall platform is believed to handle over half of business-to-consumer transactions.

Further, Chinese consumption remains strong, but the world's second-largest economy showed signs of cooling as retail sales and industrial output growth sputtered in April with regulators cracking down on swelling financial leverage.

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Alibaba vice chairman Joseph Tsai told a conference call the company is seeking to capitalize on changes in the Chinese economy.

"The March quarter is usually a slow season for e-commerce so margins usually come down a bit", said Ray Zhao, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co.

Core commerce revenue surged 47 percent to 31.57 billion yuan with the business delivering operating income of 16.5 billion yuan, the company said. Annual active online buyers in China, which contribute 70% of sales, rose 7% over 12 months to 454 million people.

Ant is behind Alipay, a platform that accounts for 80 percent of electronic payments in China where it is used for e-commerce at Alibaba online venues and a large number of mobile applications.

Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba, said the robust quarter demonstrated Alibaba's successful interaction with its 500 million consumers as well as its ability to create value.

"There is enormous potential for growing the user base of our core commerce platforms through conversion of users in our digital media and entertainment metrics as well as through the payment platform of our affiliate company Alipay".

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