Alibaba's (BABA) - Get Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Sponsored ADR Reportchairman and co-founder Jack Ma has never lacked for ambition.
Speaking at the company's investor day on Friday, Ma said he believes the 18-year-old e-commerce giant, which already sports a market cap of almost $400 billion, is "still a baby" compared to what he has in mind. Ma envisions Alibaba growing from a business into one of the largest economies in the world, adding that it can get there if the company can double its gross merchandise volume by 2020.
To do that, Alibaba's GMV, or online sales transactions between parties, would need to reach $1 trillion, up from the approximately $547 billion it had last year. At that number, Alibaba's GMV would be equivalent to the GDP of Indonesia, Asia's fifth largest economy, according to Barron's.
"If a company can serve two billion consumers, that is one third of the total population of the world," Ma said on Friday. "If the company can create 100 million jobs, this is probably bigger than most governments can do. This is called [an] economy."
"The vision is to last 102 years, so we have another 84 years to go," Ma added, citing his oft-stated goal to have Alibaba, which was founded in 1999, last across three centuries. "We are still a small company."
A review of Alibaba's headline numbers indicates otherwise, however. On the first day of the analyst meeting on Thursday, Alibaba Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu showed that the company is far from slowing down, predicting that revenue will grow 45% to 49% in its 2018 fiscal year. The bullish call sent shares skyrocketing 13% on Thursday and added a cool $42 billion to Alibaba's market cap. Ma, meanwhile, saw his net worth rise $8.5 billion to $41.8 billion.
Alibaba stock was climbing an additional 3.9% to $148 on Friday morning. Shares have risen more than 60% so far this year, compared to the S&P 500's increase of about 9%.
Ma broke down what he expects will drive Alibaba's path to near world domination. By 2036, Ma envisions Alibaba serving two billion customers, and having created 100 million jobs and supporting 10 million profitable businesses worldwide. Of those two billion users, he sees 800 million coming from China and 1.2 billion internationally. He also expects that China's middle class will grow from 300 million to 500 million in the next five to six years, which will drive greater spending power in the country.
"With this kind of confidence, foresight and dream Jack Ma has, it is for sure that Alibaba has no time to look back," said CrispIdea analyst Shejal Ajmera. "It will certainly create synergies with innovation and integrating the business."
Alibaba's key growth engines will rest on three things, he argued -- data, the internet of things and globalization.
"Alibaba is born in China but we grow for the world," Ma said. "As the second largest economy, we think China will finally have a Google and Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report to influence the world. We think China may have the chance...and Alibaba hopefully will be the top ten of the world."
Alibaba still some way to go to catch up to America's tech giants. Alibaba generated about $22 billion in annual revenue in 2016, compared to Google's $90 billion in sales, Amazon's $95 billion and Apple's $233 billion.
But neither Ma nor executive vice chairman Joe Tsai, who also spoke at the analyst meeting on Friday, seem fazed by its rivals' leads. Both Ma and Tsai said Alibaba has tried to be ahead of the curve in predicting what consumers want, which is partly what drives the company's acquisition strategy and globalization plans. Tsai compared Alibaba's acquisition strategy to the Chinese game of Go, which involves surrounding more territory than you opponent.
"For competitive reasons, we may not always fully explain which direction we're going...but the purpose is to build long term value for Alibaba," Tsai explained.
Alibaba has made more than $21 billion in strategic investments over the last two years, with about 75% of that focused on digital, international, logistics, online-to-offline commerce and other efforts, said Stifel analyst Scott Devitt. "Alibaba will continue to invest in key areas that are likely to expand the addressable market and support long-term growth," Devitt added.
At Friday close, Alibaba had fallen 2.1% to $139.36.