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Alibaba was once a Wall Street darling. What’s next?


Signage for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. covers the front facade of the New York Stock Exchange November 11, 2015.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

BEIJING — It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for Alibaba, casting doubt on the future of the tech giant just as artificial intelligence is taking off.

The company’s cloud computing unit was poised to capture AI’s growth for investors in a public listing, until Alibaba pulled those plans in November. The Group’s U.S. market value fell below that of e-commerce rival PDD, signaling struggles in the industry that had propelled Alibaba onto the global stage with the world’s largest IPO in 2014.

On the political front, Alibaba was a poster child for China’s crackdown on internet tech companies — receiving a record fine of $2.8 billion for alleged monopolistic behavior in 2021. Slowing economic growth hasn’t helped its business either.

But the scrapped cloud IPO plans and management shakeup in the last year reflect bigger problems for a company that has served as a bellwether for foreign investors in China. Alibaba’s stock has plunged to below $77 a share, down by 75% from more than $300 in 2020.

“I think there are some deep internal issues. And so there must now be … a clear internal fight between how they’re going to get out of this because they’re really slipping,” said Duncan Clark, an early advisor to Alibaba and now chairman of Beijing-based investment advisor BDA.

“The core to me is their eroding market position, what they are doing in terms of video, livestream and how they respond to Douyin, plus how they manage all these disparate groups and all the management turmoil,” Clark said. ”It’s a mess basically.”

China needs to announce policies 'that stick' for real investor confidence to return: Analyst

Douyin, the domestic Chinese version of ByteDance’s TikTok, has taken off in China as a platform for the surging livestream sales industry. Chinese consumers, who are increasingly hunting for bargains, have also turned to bargain hunting on Pinduoduo.

Founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, Alibaba is a far older company than ByteDance or PDD.

“Personnel-wise there are people that are leaving the company, they may feel the company is so big and bureaucratic, that is a reality,” said Brian Wong, former Alibaba Group vice president and author of the “Tao of Alibaba,” published in November 2022.

Management shake-up centered on cloud

Are they too big? That was the charge from the government before, but now the question is are they nimble enough, are they able to compete enough in the marketplace?

Duncan Clark

BDA, chairman

“Are they too big? That was the charge from the government before, but now the question is are they nimble enough, are they able to compete enough in the marketplace?” he said. Clark also wrote “Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built,” published in 2016.

Cloud competition from Huawei

Alibaba has been an industry leader in the cloud business.

The company remained the largest player in China’s cloud market in the third quarter, followed by Huawei and Tencent, according to Canalys.

But the research firm predicted…



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