After reaching record lows not seen since 2016, 2022 was merciless for Alibaba Group Holding (NYSE: BABA). This comes as no surprise given all of the recent China-related news. A zero-COVID policy has stifled output and demand, while antitrust laws from the ruling party have targeted its tech companies. The continued supply chain and labor constraints haven’t helped matters either. Was 2022 always a difficult year with such headwinds?
Maybe, but things are starting to turn around, and it appears that the bulls have returned. Major tailwinds are expected to carry Alibaba into 2023. Let’s look at a few of them.
For openers, analysts have identified numerous stocks as poised for a comeback bounce in the coming year. Alibaba is one of the most recent example. On Monday, Morgan Stanley named the e-commerce behemoth their favorite in the tech sector. According to Gary Yu and his team, investors have “underappreciated Alibaba’s leverage to a Chinese consumption rebound.” This is mostly owing to its retail success in areas such as consumer products.
Yu also anticipates an improvement in China’s regulatory environment, which will go a long way toward reversing the selling pressure that has brought shares down as much as 80% from their 2020 highs. But it isn’t all. Founder Jack Ma recently announced his intention to step down as CEO and pass over the reigns to someone else.
With his name now being disassociated with Alibaba, one more risk and possible headwind has been removed.
Along with the bullish outlook, Morgan Stanley reiterated its Outperform rating and set a $150 price objective for Alibaba shares. This indicates a 30% upside from current levels based on where they closed on Wednesday. Shares are already up almost 100% from their lows in October, so this outlook, simply adds gasoline to the belief that a significant recovery rally is in the works.
Additional tailwinds exist in the shape of the zero-COVID policy being reversed, which will finally allow the Chinese economy to recuperate after living in constant dread of a lockdown. This comes after widespread rallies caused the government to cave, which is unusual in China.
Alibaba’s Risk Factors
There are risks, the most visible of which are geopolitical tensions. When compared to a decade ago, the United States and China are no longer on good terms. The conflict in Ukraine and escalating tensions with Taiwan have not helped the relationship.
This has filtered down to corporations, with the United States refusing to transfer semiconductor chips to China for fear that they may be used against them in the future. Chinese retaliation is not ruled out and would almost certainly aggravate the situation.
Furthermore, the delisting risk that has dogged Alibaba and its counterparts in recent years has not materialized as many bears predicted. It still exists, but the longer Alibaba remains on the good side of US auditors, the more likely its shares will become a permanent fixture on the New York Stock Exchange.
Indeed, there was news on this front as recently as the last week of December, when it was reported that numerous US-listed Chinese companies had abandoned intentions to list in Hong Kong. This approach was positioned as their backup option for remaining listed outside of China if the US followed through on the threat of delisting.
Still, this is the beast from the east, Alibaba. While shares have been heavily discounted in recent years, a specter of their former self remains, as indicated by the stock’s doubling in value in less than three months.
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