Despite China’s slowing economy, Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma says his Chinese e-commerce giant is still growing and is on track to exceed Walmart (WMT) in sales volume this year.
“Consumption is still going up on Alibaba,” Ma said in an interview at Stanford University’s business school on Thursday night. “This is because when the economy goes down people look online to Alibaba to buy cheaper things.”
Ma’s comments are aimed at calming investor concern about Alibaba’s direction. Following a blockbuster IPO a year ago, it has since taken a beating over concerns about its growth and a stock price (BABA) that has fallen 40% since the beginning of the year.
In the past few weeks, hedge fund manager John Hempton, of Bronte Capital, even suggested that Alibaba may be committing fraud by “faking their numbers.” Alibaba strongly refuted the claims.
But Ma dismissed the concern about his company, which remains a huge force in online retailing. During the interview, conducted by Yahoo co-founder and Alibaba board member Jerry Yang, Ma said that China’s slowdown was inevitable.
“It’s impossible for China to keep 10 to 15% growth annually,” he said. “The economy needed to slow down and we have to learn to slow down.”
He continued: “China is still the fastest growing economy in the world but we need to learn how to use money in a better way and it’s about quality not quantity.”
Alibaba recorded a 28% jump in sales from the previous year in the second quarter of 2015 to $3.27 billion. Walmart’s sales were $120 billion in the second quarter of 2015.
To underscore Alibaba’s underlying strength, Ma detailed the major role the company plays in China’s retail scene. Sales on the site account for 12% of China’s total retail market. He added that Alibaba has 367 million active buyers, more than the population of the U.S. and Canada combined. The company fulfills an average of 30 million orders daily, nearly double the volume of shipping titan UPS.
Ma also shared a few details about his recent meetings with Chinese president Xi Jinpinq and U.S. technology CEOs in Seattle earlier this week. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella all atttended the event.
“These American entrepreneurs and business leaders are worried about us,” Ma said. “I think U.S. and Chinese businesses need a common language and dialogue.”
Ma proposed bi-yearly meetings in the U.S. and China for business leaders to share ideas and collaborate. Yang, who led Yahoo’s early investment in Alibaba in 2005, agreed with Ma, and said that the differences between the two countries are not that big and that their business leaders should collaborate to solve the world’s problems.
Ma has been spending more time in the U.S., as the company embarks on a new plan to help U.S. companies and merchants sell to Chinese consumers.
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