Today marked the first time that Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE:BABA) has released an annual revenue forecast. The company projected a 48 percent increase in revenue for the fiscal year ending in March. Excluding recently acquired companies, revenue still is expected to rise 36 percent. The new forecast is considerably higher than the 33 percent revenue increase enjoyed by the company in the prior fiscal year.
The company also announced that it will continue to use its excess cash to make new acquisitions and to buy back its shares. Over the past few years, Alibaba has made a series of acquisitions, including Youku Tudou Inc., a major Chinese online video provider and a controlling stake in Singapore e-commerce startup Lazada Group. The company has also jointly invested $1.25 billion with its financial affiliate in Ele.me, a Chinese mobile food delivery app. Right now, the company has no plans to pay dividends to shareholders.
Some of the company’s figures have come under scrutiny from investors. At issue is a metric called gross merchandise volume, or GMV. Investors and analysts look closely at a company’s GMV because it shows how fast an e-commerce company is growing relative to competitors. Analysts say the way Alibaba calculates GMV has been controversial, because includes transactions regardless of whether they have been paid for.
Tuesday, Alibaba announced that it will stop reporting its GMV every quarter, reporting only its annual GMV each year. Instead, the company will start disclosing more detailed financial results for different segments of its operations. Last year, Alibaba reported GMV of $14.4 billion for Nov. 11, Singles’ Day and China’s biggest online shopping day of the year. The company is aiming for $1 trillion in GMV by 2020 and to serve 2 billion customers by 2036.
Alibaba is also facing an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into its accounting practices. Last month, U.S. regulators asked Alibaba it to provide details for a number of its financial transactions. The information requested included its accounting for a delivery affiliate, its operating data for Single’s Day, and “related party transactions in general.” The request for information is not an indication of any violation of federal securities law, according to a statement by the company. The company says that it is cooperating with the SEC on its inquiry.