JD Plunges After Growth, Margin Concerns Outweigh Sales Beat

jd.com

(Bloomberg)

JD.com Inc.’s shares dived as much as 9% after concerns about slowing e-commerce growth and pressure on margins outweighed better-than-expected post-Covid revenue growth.

Beijing-based JD.com’s sales climbed 29% to 174.21 billion yuan ($26.5 billion) during the July-September quarter, surpassing the 170.5 billion yuan average of analysts’ estimates. Its net income surged to 7.6 billion yuan, helped by one-time gains of more than 3.7 billion yuan from the value of investments and other items.

JD joined smaller rival Pinduoduo Inc. in beating Wall Street estimates, after strong Nov. 11 Singles’ Day performances demonstrated how online spending is surging ahead even as overall retail spending shows only modest recovery. Official data showed Chinese retail sales growth in October missed expectations. JD’s general merchandise sales — a measure of all transactions across its platforms — decelerated and came in about 5% lower than Citigroup’s forecast, analyst Alicia Yap said in a report. And the company is expected to spend on new initiatives in online commerce to keep pace with rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. JD’s stock slid to a low of HK$335.6 on Tuesday in Hong Kong.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says

Operating margin could decline sequentially in 4Q, in-line with the seasonality observed a year earlier. JD.com plans to increase infrastructure investment to support its supermarket business, which the company has identified as a strategic priority, as the pandemic shifts consumers’ purchase of groceries and fresh produce to online channels.

– Vey-Sern Ling and Tiffany Tam, analysts

JD’s results coincide with growing regulatory pressure on tech giants. Beijing last week released a set of detailed guidelines to curb monopolistic practices, raising questions about the future of companies from JD and Alibaba to JD’s backer Tencent Holdings Ltd. Separate rules governing micro-lending have already torpedoed Ant Group Co.’s $35 billion initial public offering, prompting speculation over whether JD.com’s own fast-growing fintech arm will face a longer journey in going public.

Language in the regulations suggests a heavy focus on anti-competitive practices in online commerce, from forced exclusive arrangements with merchants known as “Pick One of Two” to algorithm-based prices favoring new users. Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo have accused each other of using underhanded tactics in the past. On Monday, JD executives said on an earnings call they fully supported the new antitrust regulations because they allowed room for innovation.

Annual active customer accounts increased by 32% to 441.6 million in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, with roughly 80% of the new users coming from less-developed cities — the battleground between JD and rivals like Pinduoduo.

Shares of JD.com in Hong Kong sold off alongside other Chinese technology leaders following the antitrust regulations last week, but have since recouped some of their losses on expectations its arch-rival Alibaba will absorb the brunt of any Beijing action. JD’s stock is still up strongly this year in the wake of a post-pandemic surge in internet activity.

Pinduoduo last week posted a stronger-than-expected 89% surge in third-quarter sales, though Alibaba’s revenue grew at the slowest pace ever for a July-September quarter.

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