Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com (NASDAQ:JD) reported earnings on May 10, describing the results of the first quarter in fiscal year 2019. The company sailed past management's revenue guidance and pointed to a further acceleration of sales in the next reporting period. Here's a closer look.

JD's first-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q1 2019

Q1 2018

Year-Over-Year Growth

Revenue

$18.0 billion

$16.0 billion

12.5%

Net income

$1.08 billion

$243 million

344%

GAAP earnings per American depositary share (diluted)

$0.74

$0.17

335%

Data source: JD.com.

What happened with JD this quarter

  • Currency exchange effects made a significant difference to JD's reported results. Counted in Chinese yuan, JD's first-quarter sales rose 21% year over year, while earnings per American depositary share jumped 377%. The top-line result beat management's guidance of approximately $17.5 billion from three months ago.
  • 311 million active customers represented a 1.7% increase from the fourth quarter and a 2.9% jump versus the year-ago period. JD typically reports this metric as a trailing figure, comparing its customer activity on a rolling four-quarter basis. On a strict comparison of the first quarters in 2018 and 2019, the number of active accounts rose 15% to an undisclosed final tally. Again, JD prefers to talk about its longer-term trends.
  • Management noted that profits were "a little bit high" in this quarter, and investors shouldn't expect them to stay there. JD will continue to funnel rising operating profits into stronger research and development and marketing budgets, fueling the company's growth.
A delivery drone, emblazoned with JD logos, preparing to carry off a large cardboard box.

JD's delivery drones have been busy lately. Image source: JD.com.

What management had to say

In the earnings call, CEO Richard Liu told investors and analysts that JD actually follows a modern version of the classic playbook for large-scale retail businesses.

"I just also want to just come back to the basics, what you mentioned on the various decentralized retail formats, you can also draw comparison to the various innovative boutique shops in the offline world," Liu said. "At different times, you always have different new innovative retail formats, but in the end, the retail economies of scale driven by large procurement and also operating efficiency will remain intact."

Essentially, Liu argued, JD carries the traditional retail torch based on a next-generation digital workflow to create a unique business advantage.

"When you do such a scale, it is actually very difficult to be disrupted," he insisted.

Looking ahead

Based on healthy sales trends in April and early May, JD's management guided to approximately 21% year-over-year revenue growth in the second quarter -- measured in yuan, of course. The company is also boosting its promotion activities in this period, underscoring the fleeting nature of these large first-quarter profits.