- Consumer spending is recovering in an unbalanced way, meaning it will likely take until the second half of the year for the speed of the recovery to improve, Lei Xu, chief executive officer and CEO of e-commerce giant JD.com, said on an earnings call Thursday.
- JD’s description of a tepid recovery in China’s consumer market follows similar comments from Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.
- Official retail sales data for January and February are due on Wednesday.
A JD.com courier drives past the Zaha Hadid-designed Galaxy Soho complex in Beijing, China, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
BEIJING – China has yet to see a strong rebound in consumer spending, according to major companies.
Consumer spending is recovering in an unbalanced way, meaning it will likely take until the second half of the year for the speed of recovery to improve, Lei Xu, chief executive officer and chief executive officer of e-commerce giant JD.com, said in an earnings report call Thursday.
He said it will take time for the government’s stimulus measures to show in consumer income and confidence.
JD on Thursday reported a 7.1% rise in fourth-quarter net income to 295.45 billion yuan ($42.8 billion). That’s below expectations of 296.2 billion yuan, according to Reuters.
JD’s shares fell more than 11% in Hong Kong trading on Friday. The company’s US-listed shares closed more than 11% lower overnight.
JD.com stock performance over the past 12 months
Many investors were disappointed by JD’s 2.7% net margin, William Ma, chief investment officer at Grow Investment Group, said Friday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
Ma expects margins to fall to around 1% due to competition in China’s consumer market. He pointed out that JD did not indicate on Thursday that it would stop subsidies – after launching a 10 billion yuan subsidy program earlier this year.
Official data released this week showed China’s consumer prices rose a subdued 1% in February compared with a year ago.
The larger-than-expected softness in the consumer price index “casts doubt on the strength of the recovery in domestic demand in the household sector,” Zhiwei Zhang, president, Pinpoint Asset Management, said in a note. “It’s puzzling to me as it’s at odds with other data points that suggest the recovery in domestic demand is quite strong.”
Covid controls and a property slump dragged down China’s economy last year, weighing heavily on consumer and business sentiment.
Beijing ended its Covid controls late last year. Many consumers rushed to shop and travel during the Lunar New Year at the end of January.
But JD is not alone. Comments by Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang last month also pointed to a tepid recovery in China’s consumer market.
Online sales remained weak this year until early February, Zhang said during a quarterly earnings call in February.
However, he said some categories started to see an improvement last month. Companies want to work hard to recover from the losses of the past three years, Zhang said.
Alibaba shares traded more than 3% lower on Friday in Hong Kong.
Non-Chinese companies such as Adidas are also cautious about the outlook for Chinese consumer spending in the near term.
CEO Bjørn Gulden told analysts on an earnings call this week that he does not expect the Chinese market to turn around this year and be a major contributor to sales.
In the medium term, however, he expects China to be a growth driver for the company again.
Adidas’ sales in Greater China plunged 36% last year on a currency-neutral basis to 3.18 billion euros ($3.37 billion).
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On Sunday, China announced a relatively conservative economic growth target of around 5% for the year. Officials later said boosting consumption was a priority and that they expected it to be a driver of overall growth. But they noted that recovery in the sector continues to face constraints.
Official retail sales data for January and February are due on Wednesday.
Chinese consumer e-commerce companies Meituan and Pinduoduo have not yet said when they will release earnings for the latest quarter.