Alibaba (BABA) Chief Financial Officer Maggie Wu got a round of applause from the crowd at the company's annual investor day in Hangzhou, China on Thursday after forecasting 2018 revenue growth up to 12 percentage points higher than analysts were expecting.
"The mood at the Investor Day was jubilant," Maybank Kim Eng head of Asia Internet and telecom equity research Mitchell Kim said.
At the first day of the two-day meeting, the dominant Chinese online retailer forecast revenue to grow 45% to 49% in 2018, vs. the FactSet consensus estimate of 37%. "Despite having a larger [business] base, we continue to accelerate our revenue growth," Wu said, in reference to the company expanding into different verticals, such as cloud computing and digital media and entertainment.
The stock skyrocketed Thursday, closing up about 13% to $142.34. Year to date, the stock is up more than 60%, vs. the S&P 500's increase of about 9%. Meanwhile Chinese competitor Tencent (TCTZF) is up 44% in 2017 and U.S. competitor Amazon (AMZN) is up 35% this year. Kim said that Alibaba is the firm's top pick in the Chinese e-commerce space and that he expects the presentations from the two-day event to add more bullish sentiment to the stock.
Morningstar CFA R.J. Hottovy said the big news is clearly the surprise revenue guidance. "This implies accelerating organic revenue year-over-year (after adjusting for Youku and Lazada), which is impressive at this point in Alibaba's history and underscores all the various ways they can monetize their data," he said.
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Updated from 9:46 a.m. with additional analyst comments.