Alibaba Reports Strong Earnings As Regulators Take Action

An Alibaba app on a phone screen.

The Chinese tech giant is dealing with scrutiny over the Ant Group and allegations by watchdogs of being a monopoly. Alibaba is building a “rectification plan” for its fintech affiliate Ant Group after it pulled its $37bn IPO last November following pressure from regulators.

In its latest quarterly earnings, Alibaba said there have been “significant changes in the fintech regulatory environment in China” after regulators halted the listing of Ant Group with questions over the business’s operations. The retrench was a major blow for the fintech business, which was due to list in both Shanghai and Hong Kong in what would have been a record public listing.

Ant Group, which runs Alipay, was originally founded as part of Alibaba Group. It was spun out in 2014 but Alibaba owns around one-third of the fintech business. Alibaba has attracted growing scrutiny in its home market from authorities. Competition watchdog, the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR), launched an investigation into Alibaba in late December over alleged anti-competitive practices.

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The Chinese fintech titan Ant Group—co-founded by Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma—is set to go public in what could be one of the largest listings ever. WSJ explains how Ant’s backbone service, Alipay, has revolutionized payments and investing in the world’s most populous country. Photo Composite: Crystal Tai More from the Wall Street Journal: Visit WSJ.com: http://www.wsj.com Visit the WSJ Video Center: https://wsj.com/video On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/wsj/videos/ On Twitter: https://twitter.com/WSJ On Snapchat: https://on.wsj.com/2ratjSM
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“We have established a special taskforce with leaders from our relevant business units to conduct internal reviews,” the company said in its latest earnings report. “We will continue to actively communicate with the SAMR on compliance with regulatory requirements.

The regulatory hurdles haven’t dampened the company’s balance sheet though. It reported a 37pc increase in year-over-year revenues with fourth quarter earnings of RMB 221bn, about $33.9bn, and a net income of nearly $12bn.

Singles’ Day, a sales event on Alibaba and its competitor JD that is akin to Black Friday, boosted revenues for the company, reportedly seeing $74.1bn worth of orders sold through its platform during that period.

It has 779m active annual users in China as of December 2020, adding 22m users in the fourth quarter. The lion’s share of its business is in China but it marked gains in its international retail and wholesale business. The retail gain was attributed to Lazada, its e-commerce site active in south-east Asia, and Turkey’s Trendyol.

“The increase [in international wholesale] was primarily due to increases in both the number of paying members and average revenue from paying members on Alibaba.com, as well as an increase in revenue generated by cross-border related value-added services,” the company said.

 

By:  Jonathan Keane

Source: Alibaba reports strong earnings as regulators take action

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Days after Jack Ma’s Alibaba was slapped with a staggering $2.8bn anti-monopoly fine, its fintech affiliate Ant Group has committed to a sweeping set of reforms in terms of how the company does business to appease Beijing. The central bank, the People’s Bank of China, said today (12 April) that the company – which is a spin-out of Alibaba – would restructure as a financial holding company.

It marks a sea change for China’s largest tech companies, which have been able to grow domestically with few restrictions, allowing China to develop several major businesses that are on par with some of the US giants. That heady growth hit a stumbling block in November, when Ant Group put the brakes on its IPO after pressure from authorities. At the time it was tipped to be the largest ever IPO, raising $37bn.

It is believed that Ant Group drew the ire of authorities after Ma made critical comments about financial regulators during a speech in October. With Ant Group restructuring as a financial holding company, it will be subject to much stricter regulatory controls and must hold higher levels of money in reserves – all moves that will ultimately affect its bottom line.

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The 3 Most Common Mistakes Online Course Creators Make

Adding an online course to your product suite and having a passive income stream on autopilot sounds amazing, right? And it doesn’t only sound amazing, it truly can be if you put in the work and take the right steps at the right time to create a digital product that sells and is scalable. 

But many course creators are guilty of either one or multiple of the following mistakes, which derails their progress before they even create the online course. Let’s shed some light on the three most common mistakes course creators make. 

Related: 4 Crucial Things To Consider Before Creating An Online Course

Mistake No. 1: Not creating a proper foundation

Building an online course is no different than building a house. When you build a house, you make sure that its foundation will withstand storms. You also don’t start building the roof before you know the cement that makes up your foundation has dried properly. 

So before you start recording your course content, you must validate your course idea and identify your dream students. You also need to create a name and a market proposition for your product that expresses the results of your course preferably in one word, or maximum in one sentence. 

Paying lots of attention to building a strong foundation at the beginning will set you off on the right path to be able to scale later on. 

Related: 5 Tips for Creating Your First (Successful) Online Course

Mistake No. 2: Never finishing the course

I speak to dozens of people every single day who have attempted to create an online course and have given up halfway through because they didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t know the next steps to take. Valuable knowledge has been temporarily parked on a Google drive, which then turns out to become a permanent parking spot. 

It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged when you embark on a brand new journey yourself and you haven’t done it before. Many course creators think they can do it alone and it’s easy to “just record a few videos” and “chuck the content into an online platform” … but it really isn’t.

Creating an online course is a project, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Facing difficulties and hurdles is normal and will happen to you no matter what you do. It’s no different with online courses. You must prioritize and focus on finishing it. 

Related: Are Free Online Courses Worth the Time and Effort?

Mistake No. 3: Not knowing how to market and sell your online course 

At the beginning, the course is brand new to creators themselves, so it’s hard for them to market properly. Many course creators think they can just run Facebook ads to their sales page and see how it goes, only to end up burning lots of cash. If you are just starting out in your field and your course is new on the market, always start off with organic marketing

It takes time to perfect your marketing message, learn about your customers’ objectives and write amazing copy. If you write bad copy on Facebook or in an email, so be it. You lost some time, but you can go back and tweak the copy. But if you write the same bad copy and place ads on it, Facebook becomes a black hole for your hard-earned money. 

Being successful with your online course does require you to build a strong foundation, create the amazing content your audience is asking for and figure out how to market it properly, short-term and long-term. Once you do, you will reap the rewards of your labor.

By: Tina Dahmen Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

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Lucy Griffiths 5.41K subscribers

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Perpay Is an Amazon-Style Marketplace That’s Just for People Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Meet Beverly. She’s worked at UPS for 10 years. She has one to two kids and is earning $40,000 to $50,000 per year. She has limited or no access to credit and can’t handle an unexpected expense of more than $500. And her fridge just broke.

Chris DiMarco knows Beverly well; she’s a hypothetical representation of the target customer for Perpay, the fintech company he launched in 2014. DiMarco co-founded the Philadelphia-based Perpay, along with David Hayne, with the goal of helping people who struggle with debt better afford unplanned big-ticket purchases.

On Perpay’s Amazon-style shopping site, users can buy items from brands like KitchenAid and LG–basically anything you can find at Best Buy or Walmart, DiMarco says. They pay for purchases over time with deductions from each paycheck.

Instead of charging interest to make money, Perpay operates like other e-commerce marketplaces: It buys items wholesale from distributors and sells them at a markup. The model is paying dividends. With more than one million users to date, Perpay’s revenue has grown 18,166 percent over three years to $22.5 million in 2018–helping it land No. 5 on Inc.‘s annual tally of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

A light bulb moment

This isn’t DiMarco’s first time on the Inc. 5000. In 2015, his previous venture, Lamps.com, a Philadelphia-based e-commerce site that primarily sells lamps and other lighting equipment, landed on Inc.‘s list at No. 161. While the 12-person company pulled in north of $3 million in revenue that year, DiMarco got the urge to start another company, so he stepped down as CEO.

His idea for Perpay came from examining Lamps.com’s HR benefits. Various providers promise to reward employees with items like discounted movie tickets, among other goods. Vendors clearly had large enough profit margins to afford discounts, and were choosing which companies could access them. DiMarco wondered if he could make a direct-to-consumer version.

He posed the concept to Hayne, his childhood friend who was the COO of Free People, a women’s apparel brand owned by Urban Outfitters that Hayne’s father founded in 1970. Hayne, Lamps.com’s first investor, was intrigued.

The pair started by identifying common financial stresses in people’s lives to find their ideal customer. Working backward, they stumbled onto the Perpay marketplace concept; both men had worked in the retail world, but neither had any formal experience with the rent-to-own industry, which differs from the layaway model by allowing customers to obtain the goods they want immediately and pay for them over time.

Perpay’s offices in Philadelphia.Hannah Yoon

Still, the more they thought about the idea, the more they liked it: a “white knight” alternative to rent-to-own vendors that cater to vulnerable consumers, often charging them extremely high interest rates and fees. One example: Rent-a-Center, the massive Plano, Texas-based rent-to-own furniture and electronics business, regularly charges customers up to three times a retail item’s list price or tacks on other fees that are roughly equivalent to triple-digit annual percentage rates, according to a 2017 NerdWallet investigation. (Rent-a-Center did not respond to several requests for comment and verification.)

Perpay also charges more than traditional retailers, on average. A Ring Video Doorbell 2 on Perpay currently costs $259.99 plus $12.99 shipping. The same item on Best Buy’s website is $199.99 with free shipping, and comes with a free Amazon Echo Dot.

While Perpay enjoys an A-plus rating on the Better Business Bureau’s website, it has drawn a number of complaints about its pricing. To that, DiMarco says: “We’re very comfortable with our pricing, because it’s so much fairer than the alternative.”

Perpay may also levy fees on users who don’t pay on time. The company’s terms and conditions list a $35 charge each time a customer delays a payment. DiMarco counters that the company has never actually levied that $35 fee, and that the language is “standard legal verbiage” recommended by the company’s lawyers. The clause, he says, exists for legal protection–and he’s considering removing the fee entirely. Even so, he adds: “If you follow our rules, you’ll be fine.”

A place for all

Perpay could make sense for a specific segment of users, says Graciela Aponte-Diaz, a policy director at the Durham, North Carolina-based Center for Responsible Lending. Those who live in states with fewer financial regulations, like California, for instance, might consider it as an alternative to payday loans, which are small, short-term unsecured loans. Payday lenders in the state have been known to charge some of the highest interest rates in the country, adds Aponte-Diaz. By contrast, Perpay may be less attractive for those in high-regulation states like New York, as it faces tougher competition from providers.

DiMarco insists his product has a place in any employed and credit-challenged person’s household, and he says that Perpay more closely competes with rent-to-own vendors than payday lenders. “All situations are different,” he says. “We just work with the customer on what the best approach is.”

Some customers, for example, need to find alternative methods of payment if they get fired or change jobs midway through paying for an item. Perpay employs a full-time staffer dedicated to solving those issues–solutions range from allowing customers to pay installments with debit cards to putting accounts on hold–and recently instituted automated tools to help manage payment reschedulings.

That kind of individual attention may prove challenging as Perpay continues to scale. DiMarco’s short-term goal is to add more marketplace categoriesthe company recently added tires and baby equipment to its catalog. His long-term goal is to create stronger relationships with wholesale distributors so he can lower Perpay’s prices. He also expressed interest in expanding Perpay’s scope. One idea: a Perpay-backed credit card, with which consumers’ Perpay history could help improve their real-life credit. Currently, using Perpay does not affect users’ credit, for better or worse.

“The ultimate goal would be to improve somebody’s credit to the point where they actually are a prime borrower,” DiMarco says. “Can we do that today? No. But we’d like to keep providing more products to our best customers.”

Clarification: An earlier version of this article contained a reference the inclusion of which overemphasized the significance of Perpay’s terms and conditions statement regarding its ability to edit or otherwise alter online reviews. The reference has been removed. While the company can edit or otherwise alter third-party reviews, the company doesn’t, nor does it plan to. 

By: Cameron Albert-Deitch

 

 

Source: Perpay Is an Amazon-Style Marketplace That’s Just for People Living Paycheck to Paycheck | Inc.com

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