On an otherwise gloomy market day, shares of Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA) rose as much as 5.3% in Thursday's market action. The China-based provider of e-commerce services and support tools reported solid first-quarter results before the opening bell, and investors embraced the report with open arms.

Alibaba's Q1 by the numbers


Q1 2018

Q1 2017

Year-Over-Year Growth


$7.40 billion

$4.84 billion


Free Cash Flow

$3.27 billion

$1.92 billion


GAAP Net Income

$2.07 billion

$1.08 billion


Adjusted Earnings Per Share and ADS (Diluted)




Data source: Alibaba.

These results exceeded Wall Street's consensus estimates on the top and bottom lines. Alibaba's management reiterated their full-year guidance for revenue growth of approximately 47%.

Retail operations in the Chinese market increased 57% year over year to $5.4 billion. This is the company's bread and butter, providing a stable financial platform from which to launch various high-growth initiatives.

Meanwhile, the smaller cloud computing segment doubled its first-quarter sales to $400 million. International retail sales jumped 136% higher, landing near $440 million. These high-octane operations promise to make up a larger portion of Alibaba's total results, but they are still too small to move the company's financial needle in a meaningful way.

These figures include a 2% headwind from currency exchange effects, as the U.S. dollar has posted a slight increase in value against the Chinese Renminbi.

Alibaba's logo in gold on a white background.

Image source: Alibaba.

What's next?

Alibaba is putting its back into international growth. The company held a retail conference in Detroit during the first quarter to show American sellers and producers how Alibaba's platforms can help them market their goods in China. A similar event is headed to Canada in September. And of course, the relationship goes both ways. Many independent merchants on all-American retail platforms such as eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and the Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) Marketplace already source their goods from Alibaba-powered producers. Other non-Chinese efforts include new partnerships in Russia and a $1 billion investment in a Singapore-based e-commerce group.

As an Alibaba shareholder, I'm excited to see the company leaning into the international opportunity in a big way. It's a small world when you connect consumers and businesses around the globe, but also a big one when the addressable market expands outside the Middle Kingdom.

Altogether, Alibaba shares have now gained 88% in 2017. After setting fresh all-time highs on Thursday, the stock is trading at start-up-like valuation multiples. But it's hard to complain because Alibaba can back those ratios up with fantastic growth across the board. You know we're talking about a special business when I call a division with 53% annual sales growth out as Alibaba's "bread and butter."

I'm a happy camper, and I can't wait to see where this gravy train is going next.

Anders Bylund owns shares of Alibaba and Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and eBay. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.