SHANGHAI — JD.com, one of the giants of China’s e-commerce world, saw net losses widen as revenue growth beat expectations in the fourth quarter.
Alibaba’s leading rival and China’s largest direct sales e-tailer reported fourth quarter and full year 2015 results Tuesday prior to U.S. markets opening.
JD.com’s net loss attributable to ordinary shareholders for the three months to Dec. 31 31 rose to 7.6 billion yuan, or $1.18 billion at current exchange, an increase of 16 times the amount seen for the same period in 2014.
The company pointed the finger at impairment charges on its Paipai.com business as the main reason for the loss. Paipai.com was a consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform that was acquired by JD.com in March 2014 and relaunched later that year, before being shuttered as of Dec. 31.
In revealing the closure of Paipai.com last November, JD.com said the difficulties of fighting an influx of fake goods on the consumer-to-consumer platform were behind the decision — making it an expensive gesture in the war on counterfeits being waged by Chinese e-commerce platforms at present.
Excluding one-off and extraordinary items, JD.com reported net losses of 656.2 million yuan, or $100.2 million at current exchange, for 2015.
Net revenues for the fourth quarter were 54.6 billion yuan, or $8.3 billion at current exchange, an increase of 57 percent on the year, and full year revenues came in at 181.3 billion yuan, or $28 billion, an increase of 58 percent from 2014.
JD.com said net revenue for the first quarter of this year is expected to come in between 53 billion and 55 billion yuan, or $8.1 billion to $8.4 billion. According to company estimates, this represents a growth rate of 45 percent to 50 percent.
“Our JD Mall business once again recorded very strong top-line growth that outperformed our expectations, while we continued to maintain operating discipline,” said Sidney Huang, JD.com’s chief financial officer.
“In the quarters ahead, we will continue to invest in high-growth initiatives while improving the profitability of our core business. We look forward to another year of solid growth as the sustained expansion of the middle class in China brings many more consumers to JD.com.”
Increases in gross merchandise value and active customer accounts were also notable, with last quarter GMV up 69 percent on the year to 145.3 billion yuan, or $22.17 billion at current exchange, while full-year GMV increased by 78 percent year-over-year to 462.7 billion yuan, or $70.7 billion, in 2015.
Annual active customer accounts were up 71 percent to 155 million in the 12 months to Dec. 31, from 90.6 million in 2014. This figure, indicating JD.com is attracting more Chinese consumers, is particularly pertinent at a time when the world’s second-largest economy is growing at its slowest rate in 25 years and the central Communist Party government is attempting to shift economic gears from manufacturing to fuel growth via domestic consumption.
“During the year successful sales events like Singles’ Day and our uninterrupted Chinese New Year service brought us new customers,” JD.com chief executive officer Richard Liu said. “Today more and more customers are looking to Jingdong [as JD.com is known in China] as they upgrade the quality of the products they buy.”
Also during the fourth quarter, JD.com extended its fulfillment capabilities among China’s e-commerce companies. As of December 31, the company operated 213 warehouses covering an aggregate gross floor area of more than 40 million square feet in 50 cities. During 2015, over 85 percent of direct sales orders were delivered on the same day as, or the day after, being placed.
“We had a big year when it comes to the penetration of lower tier cities. By the end of this year we will cover 400,000 villages in China, out of a total of 600,000. This will mark by and large the end of almost 10 years of JD expanding coverage to the entire country,” JD Mall ceo Haoyu Shen said.
Shen recently spoke with WWD about the company’s continued focus on fashion, cross-border commerce, which was revealed on the earnings call to account for only one percent of JD.com’s business, though the sector grew in the triple digits in recent years.
Also noted on the earnings call was the growth in mobile, which accounted for about 61.4 percent of total orders fulfilled from the core e-commerce business in the fourth quarter of 2015, an increase of more than 230 percent compared to the same period in 2014.
“We don’t disclose GMV for mobile. The number is lower, but it’s getting closer to the PC numbers. As for the contribution from WeChat and our Tencent properties we are seeing good improvement. We are seeing these numbers go up. We are also seeing reasonable improvement on conversion,” Shen said.
Overall, the message from JD.com is optimistic, though chief financial officer Sidney Huang was also quick to assert the optimism of the company’s management remains of the cautious variety, given China’s broader economic malaise.
“Despite the economic slowdown, the consumption growth in China is quite healthy with an accelerated rate of 11-plus percent in the fourth quarter. That is a good validation of our assessment in the past that in spite of the macro slowdown the consumption growth remains healthy,” he said.
“There could be a lagging effect of the slowdown on the consumption, so we remain cautiously optimistic about the outlook.”