By Tracy Qu

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group staged its second highest quarterly buyback on record, spending $4.8 billion on shares in the first three months of 2024, as its stock neared multi-year lows.

Alibaba repurchased 524 million ordinary shares in both the U.S. and Hong Kong markets in the quarter, it said late Tuesday. The outlay is second only to the $5.1 billion it spent on shares in the three months ended September 2021.

For the fiscal year ended March, Alibaba spent a total $12.5 billion on buybacks, up from $10.8 billion the previous year, it added.

Shares were 0.6% lower in Asian midday trade Wednesday, taking losses over the past year to 30%. The stock is now down 77% from its peak in October 2020 amid a broader fall in Chinese technology stocks in the wake of a regulatory crackdown and slipping global sentiment for Chinese equities.

The quickened pace of buybacks comes at a time when the Hangzhou-based company has been facing slowing growth in the face of rising e-commerce competition and a lackluster Chinese economic recovery from the pandemic. Revenue expanded about 5% on year in the latest quarter.

"For companies that aren't growing very fast, have strong cash flow, are trading at low valuation and don't have many sizable investment opportunities, increasing capital return to shareholders through buyback and share repurchase is a good capital allocation decision," said Chelsey Tam, an analyst at Morningstar.

In February, Alibaba approved a $25 billion increase to its share-repurchase program through March 2027.

Chinese videogame and social-media giant Tencent is also speeding up the pace of buybacks, saying last month that it plans to more than double its buyback program to at least $12.8 billion in 2024.

Alibaba has been undergoing its largest ever restructuring since last year. It has planned to split into six independently run companies that could seek IPOs, but last week it abandoned plans to list its logistics arm in Hong Kong, coming months after it delayed the listing of a grocery unit and shelved a spinoff of its cloud business.

Write to Tracy Qu at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-03-24 0141ET