BEIJING, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Analysts have cut their price targets for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd shares after the stock fell to a post-flotation low on Wednesday on weak earnings and concerns over China’s economy.
Alibaba’s shares are now at $73.38, hovering just above their initial public offering price of $68. The average target price fell from $106.82 on Tuesday to $99.09 on Thursday, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of 46 analysts.
Of those analysts, 41 recommend buying Alibaba shares. None suggest selling, though the company has lost over $100 billion of market capitalisation since its November high.
But behind Alibaba’s disappointing earnings is a larger threat to the company: the number of online shoppers is beginning to top off, even in the relatively new mobile e-commerce space.
The challenge facing Alibaba is how to encourage shoppers to buy more, even as China’s economy grows at its slowest rate in three decades, hitting everything from manufacturing to consumption.
“The boost they’ve been getting is probably slowing because there are not as many non-mobile shoppers who will convert,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting in Beijing.
Plaguing the e-commerce company are a variety of factors. Growth of revenues and the total value of goods transacted across Alibaba’s platforms was the slowest in over three years.
The firm has embarked on several projects to keep new users and money pouring in. It is expanding internationally, trying to bring China’s untapped rural population online and offering Internet TV, film and music.
On Monday, Alibaba said it would invest in a brick-and-mortar retailer, to link up offline and online shopping.
Despite these efforts, the population of online shoppers is beginning to peak. The number grew 13 percent to 374 million in the year to June, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Two years earlier, it had grown 29 percent.
Alibaba executives have touted the boom in mobile shopping as a new vein of customers to tap, but there the slowdown is even more drastic. Mobile e-commerce is also less profitable than on personal computers.
In the year to June 2014, the number of mobile shoppers rocketed 168 percent to 205 million. That population grew by one third in the next 12 months.
“Often there’s some dividend left in untapped penetration, existing users who’ve not adopted online shopping yet,” said Marbridge’s Natkin.
“The closer we get to the maximum penetration rate, then the company should expect to not enjoy that dividend going forward.” (Editing by Mark Potter)
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