Alibaba sold more than $1 trillion of goods and services (called gross merchandise value in the jargon) across its online platform last year.
This figure catches the eye and headlines but in terms of corporate venturing and acquisition activities, Alibaba remains a giant. It spent a reported $2bn on the acquisition of Kaola from NetEase and about a further $6bn on investments, including in Meinian Onehealth Healthcare, Red Star Macalline, STO Express and China TransInfo.
Alibaba and Yunfeng, the investment firm launched by Alibaba founder Jack Ma who has now stepped away from running the company in favour of Daniel Zhang, also agreed to invest $700m into NetEase Cloud Music’s latest funding round last September.
All this excludes the impact of Alibaba converting its profit share agreement in Ant Financial into a 33% stake in the financial services firm.
“In fiscal year 2020, we recognised one-time gains of RMB71.6bn ($10.1bn)… in relation to the receipt of the 33% equity interest in Ant Financial.”
And this continuing investment in the future has continued despite economic turmoil from the coronavirus and its disease. Alibaba said in its results: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruptions to the economy and the businesses of our equity investees may be adversely affected, which could negatively impact our share of results of equity investees in future periods.”
Alibaba’s $810m annual loss on its equity shares was partly offset by its share of profit in Ant Financial. And the group has managed its portfolio in the first three months of the year.
During the final quarter of its financial year ended March 31, 2020, net cash outflow of $476m for investment and acquisition activities was offset by cash inflow of $1.4bn from disposal of various investments.
Whatever the conditions it seems, Alibaba has built a resilient investment and operations machine.