Alibaba's Singles' Day sales top $101 billion but planned rules sink shares

Gross merchandise volume hit 498.2 billion yuan, Alibaba said, as lockdown-weary consumers splashed out at the event. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

HANGZHOU (REUTERS) - Alibaba sales for its post-Covid-19 Singles' Day shopping extravaganza hit 498.2 billion yuan (S$101.6 billion), a haul that was overshadowed by a 10 per cent drop in its shares on Wednesday (Nov 11) after China published draft anti-trust rules aimed at internet platforms.

The world's biggest sales event - eclipsing Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States - spanned 11 days this year, and brought sellers on AliBaba's platforms 21 times as many orders by value as's two-day global Prime Day last month.

Such is its size that its performance is widely considered indicative of China's post-virus economic recovery.

Alibaba rivals and Pinduoduo as well as firms such as Douyin - the Chinese version of Beijing ByteDance Technology's TikTok - also held Singles' Day events.

"Because of Covid-19, many Chinese cannot go overseas," Vice President Liu Bo told reporters. "This actually stimulates online consumption."

Alibaba gave shoppers more time to shop this year, setting primary discount days for Nov 1 through Nov 3 as well as the usual Nov 11, and is calculating gross merchandise volume (GMV) over all 11 days.

GMV hit 498.2 billion yuan Alibaba said, as lockdown-weary consumers splashed out on as many as 16 million discounted goods at the event., which started promotions on Nov 1, said it generated 271.5 billion yuan in trade over the same period.

The performance provided little relief for Alibaba investors as they focused on the proposed anti-monopoly rules that could increase scrutiny on e-commerce marketplaces and payment services.

Alibaba Group Holding's Hong Kong-listed shares closed 9.8 per cent down, in line with other Chinese tech giants. The group lost about 10 per cent of its market value last week when regulators scuppered the listing of fintech affiliate Ant Group.

Its New York-listed shares fell 1.3 per cent before recovering slightly to trade 0.9 per cent up by 1756 GMT.

Katy Perry and mobile games

The event, launched in 2009, is usually a glitzy, single-day affair with live performances. Last year, it clocked record GMV of US$38.4 billion. This year, US singer Katy Perry appeared at Alibaba's gala, albeit via livestream.

As well as offering straightforward price cuts, the event allowed shoppers across Alibaba's platforms to play mobile games for deals, combine purchases across shops and place orders in the sale's early hours to get the best offers.

Over 340 firms, including Apple Inc, L'Oreal SA and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, exceeded 100 million yuan in sales, with 13 brands recording GMV above 1 billion yuan, Alibaba said.

Analysts also expect this year to be a boon for luxury brands, as consumers accustomed to going overseas for high-end goods have been thwarted by coronavirus border closures.

But many shoppers had modest budgets.

A poll of Singles' Day spending by Sina Entertainment found just 4 per cent of 191,000 respondents planned to splurge over 10,000 yuan, versus 43 per cent who aimed to spend less than 1,000 yuan.

"The consumer and spending data we'll see coming out of 11.11 will be a terrific way to identify high-potential new products, trending brands and top categories," said Deborah Weinswig, CEO and Founder of Coresight Research, a global research firm specialising in retail and technology.

To encourage spending, livestreamers thronged pop-up film studios at a building near Alibaba's Hangzhou headquarters, touting the merits of goods on sale.

Luo Lima estimated she had been on camera promoting maternity products for 24 hours over the course of this year's sales period, versus six hours on Singles' Day two years ago.

"We stream continuously for six hours, with no break," she said. "We start by eating a full meal, and getting in a good state of mind. We also prepare throat lozenges and vitamin drinks."

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