Alibaba.com Q4 net profit down, first fall in 2 years

Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:26am GMT

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(Reuters) - Alibaba.com, which operates an e-commerce website linking Chinese businesses to overseas buyers, posted a 6 percent fall in fourth-quarter net profit, the first fall in more than two years, as a weak global economy slowed exports.

Alibaba Group has signed a $3 billion loan, giving it the committed funding required for taking Alibaba.com private, sources told Basis Point, a Thomson Reuters publication, on Monday.

Alibaba.com is 73 percent-owned by Alibaba Group, which in turn is 40 percent-owned by Yahoo Inc. The remaining 27 percent of Alibaba.com is held by investors including Morgan Stanley, Vanguard Group and Capital International, according to Thomson Reuters data. Yahoo bought its stake in Alibaba for about $1 billion in 2005.

Alibaba Group has been in negotiations with Yahoo to buy back part of its stake through a complex asset-swap deal that would strengthen founder Jack Ma's control and give Yahoo cash and a stake in one of Alibaba's operating businesses.

But sources told Reuters last week that those talks were deadlocked over how best to value Taobao, Alibaba's fast-growing online retail business.

Taking Alibaba.com into private ownership was not a pre-requisite for any broader deal for Ma to buy back the Yahoo stake, sources with knowledge of the talks have said.

Alibaba.com shares have been suspended since February 9 pending an announcement by its parent. The stock last closed at HK$9.25, a 12-week closing high, though the shares have fallen 30 percent from last July.

Alibaba.com posted October-December net profit of 385.95 million yuan, down from 410.4 million yuan a year earlier, in line with the average forecast of 372.5 million yuan from two analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Alibaba.com said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange that it remained cautious about the global economic environment this year and that as the firm moves towards a value-added-services business model, its financial performance and membership growth may be negatively affected.

Alibaba.com's exposure to international markets makes its turnover sensitive to the performance of the world's major economies such as the United States and Europe.

Quarterly revenue grew 9 percent to 1.66 billion yuan and revenue from its international marketplace rose 7.3 percent to 945.6 million yuan.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee and Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Ian Geoghegan and Jacqueline Wong)

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