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A monitor displays Alibaba Group signage on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Alibaba is expected to show slowing revenue growth after years of blockbuster earnings when it reports fiscal first quarter earnings on Thursday. Its profitability, however, is likely to be improved.

Here’s what the market expects for Alibaba’s June quarter:

  • Revenue of 111.73 billion yuan ($15.93 billion), according to Refinitiv data. If realized, this would be a 38% year-on-year rise, but slower than the more than 61% growth seen in the same quarter last year.
  • Non-GAAP diluted earnings per share (EPS) of 10.25 yuan, according to Refinitiv estimates.

Alibaba’s core commerce business, which includes its Tmall and Taobao shopping platforms, is expected to be the biggest growth driver given it’s the company’s biggest division.

The Chinese giant has been expanding the core commerce business internationally through the Singapore-based e-commerce platform Lazada which it majority owns, and domestically by pushing its products into smaller cities.

“We expect a solid June quarter for BABA, with e-commerce possibly beating revenue expectation thanks to Tmall’s strong GMV (gross merchandising value) growth,” Xiaoyan Wang, analyst at 86Research told CNBC. “We also anticipate continuous user growth even on such a large base, as Taobao and Tmall are successfully penetrating into low tier cities.”

New retail

Part of Alibaba’s core commerce business is its so-called new retail strategy which looks to fuse the various parts of its business from payments to bricks and mortar stores and food delivery together into one big ecosystem. Part of the push here has been investments in logistics, its Hema supermarkets and food delivery business Ele.me.

Investors will be looking at the performance of these new areas — particularly food delivery, which faces stiff competition from Chinese rival Meituan.

Cloud

One of the most promising areas of Alibaba’s business, according to analysts, is cloud computing. The division saw 76% year-over-year revenue growth in the March quarter and has slowly been growing its share of Alibaba’s revenues. Though it is still only around 8% of revenues, analysts see a big opportunity for the technology giant.

“Cloud remains the key asset we believe the Street is focused on. Given the penetration of cloud in China, BABA has a major green field opportunity over the coming years on this front,” Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, told CNBC.

Alibaba is the largest cloud computing player in China by market share.

Headwinds

Alibaba’s investment into new areas has come at a price — falling margins. The company has signaled, however, that it will continue to invest, something that has so far not spooked the market. Investors will be watching the margin figure closely.

Another worry is the effect of the U.S.-China trade war.

“China e-commerce players have come under major pressure in light of worries around growth in the region and macro slowness. We believe … the bark is worse than bite at this point although this remains a major (‘prove me’) quarter for BABA,” Ives said.

Alibaba’s shares are up nearly 20% this year, but Wall Street thinks they can go higher over the next year. The average price target on the stock is $218.09, according to Reuters data. That implies a 34.5% upside from Wednesday’s close.

The Chinese e-commerce giant is also reportedly looking to hold an initial public offering in Hong Kong, which could raise as much as $20 billion. On Thursday, however, the New York Post reported that Alibaba was weighing whether to delay the listing, which was scheduled for September, amid the anti-China protests in Hong Kong. Alibaba declined to comment when contacted by CNBC about the matter.

Despite some of the near-term headwinds, Alibaba’s various investments should set it up for growth over the next few years, according to Thomas Chong, equity analyst at Jefferies.

“Alibaba has multiple growth drivers in the years ahead, in our view, with the core marketplace a strong cash cow enjoying secular momentum amid China’s ongoing consumption upgrade, thanks to solid execution and technological ability to digitalize the retail sector, thereby enhancing efficiency,” Chong wrote in a recent note.

“Its highly synergistic ecosystem enables it to ramp up easily in lower tier cities and local services. It has clear market leadership in cloud computing, which is the backbone of digitalization across different industries.”

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NYSE owner ICE launches deliverable bitcoin futures contracts

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Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, launched its bitcoin futures contracts late Sunday, in a move aimed at enticing investors who have hesitated about trading the cryptocurrency.

The first trade in the new contracts was executed on ICE’s futures exchange at 8:02 p.m. ET at a price of $10,115, Bakkt, the firm behind the contracts, said in a Twitter post. Bakkt is an ICE-backed venture which aims to make trading and paying with cryptocurrencies viable for retail and institutional investors alike.

The futures are physically deliverable, meaning they pay out in bitcoin upon settlement. That’s different to ICE competitor CME Group, which introduced its own futures contracts for the digital currency in 2017 which paid out in cash. Physical settlement is used for other markets like bonds, oil, cattle and metals.

Cryptocurrency fans will hope ICE’s bitcoin futures, which are federally regulated, can provide some much-needed legitimacy to an asset class that has been mired in controversy following illicit activity in the still nascent industry.

Bitcoin is also known for its wild volatility — for example, a late 2017 bubble which saw prices rise close to $20,000 burst the following year. Since then, the cryptocurrency has been on the rise this year, with experts attributing the price jump to big firms like ICE and Facebook, with its planned libra cryptocurrency, getting involved in the space.

Futures contracts, legal agreements to buy or sell a commodity at a certain price and time, are a way for investors to bet on whether the underlying asset’s value will rise or fall. In the ICE’s case, investors can trade in daily or monthly futures, according to its website.

Bakkt, which partnered with ICE to launch the derivatives, also counts Microsoft venture arm M12 and Boston Consulting Group as investors. The company teamed up with coffee chain Starbucks last year to allow people and institutions to buy, sell, store and send cryptocurrencies.

Attempts at launching bitcoin futures have been faced with problems in the past. Cboe Global Markets, which launched its own contracts in late 2017, said earlier this year that it would stop adding new ones. Meanwhile, U.S. firm LedgerX was forced to backtrack from a launch of physically settled bitcoin futures after a key markets regulator said it had “not yet been approved.”

ICE’s move was met with a mostly tepid reaction in spot markets, with bitcoin’s price rising just 0.5% higher to about $9,950.

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‘Disaster’ for Hong Kong if it loses status as financial center: China Citic Capital

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If Hong Kong loses its status as one of Asia’s top financial centers, it would be disastrous for the Asian financial hub, said the founder and chief executive officer of Citic Capital.

There is “no lack of competition for financial centers,” said Zhang Yichen, who is also chairman at the investment firm — a Hong Kong-based alternative investment arm of the Chinese financial conglomerate Citic Group.

Investors can turn to other cities like Singapore, Tokyo and Shanghai to access global capital markets, he told CNBC’s Amanda Drury at the Singapore Summit on Saturday.

“I think if Hong Kong doesn’t shape up, you shouldn’t have a sense of entitlement (that) it has to be the financial center,” he said. If the territory should lose that status, it “spells disaster because that’s the only industry these days that’s competitive.”

Protests in Hong Kong erupted more than three months ago over a now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have paved the way for suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. While the pro-democracy protests started out as relatively peaceful in June, they have since turned increasingly violent.

Hong Kong protestors on Sunday trampled on a Chinese flag, vandalized a subway station and set fire across a wide street, the Associated Press reported.

I don’t believe Shanghai and other Chinese cities can actually replace Hong Kong … If (Hong Kong) squanders that on its own, it’ll be a shame.

Zhang Yichen

Citic Capital

Formerly a British colony, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997. It is one of China’s special administrative regions and is governed under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives its citizens certain economic and legal freedoms not given in mainland China.

Zhang said the city has its advantages over other Chinese cities like Shanghai because of the “one country, two systems” policy.

Hong Kong’s legal system is similar to what is followed in a lot of countries around the world, which gives investors a certain level of comfort, he said. In addition to that, its proximity to the Chinese mainland is another plus point for investors, he added.

“From that perspective, I don’t believe Shanghai and other Chinese cities can actually replace Hong Kong,” he said. “If (Hong Kong) squanders that on its own, it’ll be a shame.”

However, the violence and chaos have crippled the city and disrupted daily life, and in turn, hurt businesses and dented investor sentiment.

Zhang said the protests have not affected Citic Capital’s business since it invests mostly either in China or around the world. “Hong Kong is just a base for us where a lot of our senior colleagues live and work,” he added.

Citic Capital says on its website it manages more than $26 billion of capital. Last month, the firm said it raised $2.8 billion in its fourth China buyout fund and would look at China-focused investment opportunities in sectors such as consumer, health care and technology.

Reuters and CNBC’s Grace Shao contributed to this report.

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‘Game of Thrones’ ends run with best drama award, 59 total Emmy Awards

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D. B. Weiss (C, speaking), David Benioff (3rd L) and cast and crew of ‘Game of Thrones’ accept the Outstanding Drama Series award onstage during the 71st Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Winter | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Despite mixed fan and critic reactions to the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the eight-season epic took home the top prize in the drama category at the Emmy Awards on Sunday.

Closing out the 71st annual television awards ceremony, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss thanked creator George R. R. Martin for entrusting his book series to the young producers more than a decade ago and praised the cast and crew for their work on the program.

Since 2011, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has garnered 160 Emmy nominations and taken home 59 prizes for everything from acting and editing to special effects and sound mixing.

On Sunday, the program earned two Emmys, one for outstanding supporting actor, which went to Peter Dinklage for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, and one for outstanding drama.

Earlier in the month, “Game of Thrones” won 10 additional awards during the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony.

“Game of Thrones” final award tally falls short of the 67 Emmys that “Saturday Night Live” has accrued over its 44 seasons. “SNL” earned two statues on Sunday, one for outstanding variety sketch series and one for outstanding directing.

The final season was widely criticized by fans who felt the pacing and its treatment of previous character developments were not up to par. Still, the show continued to have record-breaking viewership.

Each episode, save for one, topped viewer counts from the season seven finale, which was the series high prior to season eight’s release.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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