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Alibaba's magic cave empties as it misses revenue target

Denies claims its stock comes from 40 thieves

Chinese online tat bazaar Alibaba has not only posted disappointing results, been caned by the stock market but now has also fallen foul of China's government for knowingly hosting sellers of counterfeit kit.

The company reported that it earned $964m for the last quarter of 2014 on revenue of $4.22bn.

The earnings number was down 28 per cent and the revenue number was about $300m shy of predictions.

The combined effect of those two numbers was a ten per cent dip for the company's shares, and of course a nasty hit to the value of 15 per cent stake owned by Yahoo! and due to be cashed in later this year.

Analysts are worried that the results show Alibaba has peaked, which, seeing as it listed in the US just four months ago, would be an unwelcome event for investors who pumped in $25bn.

The quarterly announcement (PDF) can certainly be read as an attempt to show the company is still winning customers and that merchants who use it are selling more stuff, although that reading's possible because the statement leads with customer and volume numbers rather than dollar values, an unusual choice.

The nasty numbers come just a day after Alibaba fended off accusations by China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) that it knowingly permits sellers – many of them unregistered under Chinese law – to offer fake products on the site.

It's suggested such sellers may be making unsolicited payments (ahem) in order to secure their place on the site.

The SAIC's report is controversial because it refers to a meeting from mid-2014, and disappeared from the body's website not long after it appeared.

Alibaba vigorously rejected the allegations and says it does its very best to ensure its operations are squeaky clean.

The company's also telling markets that it's far from a spent force, but may need a genie and a lantern to convince them of that position after a testing week. ®

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