Alibaba sheds $20 billion in market cap as cloud spinoff scrapped

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Shares of Chinese tech giant Alibaba tumble on Sept. 11, 2023 after the company said in a surprise move that outgoing CEO Daniel Zhang will also be stepping down as chairman and CEO of its cloud business.

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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba saw $20 billion wiped off its market capitalization after announcing that it would no longer spin off and list its cloud computing business.

The company, which competes with U.S. tech giant Amazon, said on Thursday that it would not proceed with the spinoff of its Cloud Intelligence Group, citing U.S. export restrictions on advanced chips.

Alibaba said the curbs have “created uncertainties for the prospects of Cloud Intelligence Group,” which competes with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

“Instead, we will focus on developing a sustainable growth model based on emerging AI-driven demand for networked and highly scaled cloud computing services,” Alibaba CEO Joe Tsai said on the company’s investor call Thursday.

At Thursday’s market close in Hong Kong, Alibaba’s market cap was 1.65 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($211.6 billion). On Friday, Alibaba’s market cap sank to 1.49 trillion Hong Kong dollars ($191.1 billion).

That translates to a loss of $21.1 billion in market cap, according to CNBC calculations of data from FactSet.

Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares are down close to 15% year-to-date, underperforming the broader Hang Seng index’s 11.2% decline in the same period.

Investors were hoping for a spun off entity for Alibaba’s cloud business that would achieve a higher valuation. Analysts in March estimated Cloud Intelligence Group could be worth between $41 billion to $60 billion, according to Reuters.

However, market commentators had warned that the listing could attract scrutiny from regulators both in China and overseas given the level of data the unit hosts and manages.

The development highlights how Alibaba, one of the largest tech companies in China, has become the latest business to get wrapped up in tense geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China.

Alibaba is investing heavily into artificial intelligence as it looks to keep up with the pace that U.S. peers such as Microsoft, Alphabet’s Google, Meta, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft-backed firm OpenAI are advancing when it comes to the technology.

The company has long integrated AI into its products and services to tailor recommended products to users, analyze data in industrial settings, and develop pieces of marketing on its Tmall, Taobao, and 1688 e-commerce sites.

In October, Alibaba introduced a new version of its artificial intelligence model which competes with similar models from U.S. tech giants Microsoft and Amazon.

Called Tongyi Qianwen 2.0, it is a large language model (LLM). An LLM is trained on vast amounts of data and forms the basis for generative AI applications such as ChatGPT from OpenAI. Alibaba says that Tongyi Qianwen 2.0 is a “substantial upgrade from its predecessor,” introduced in April.


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