JD.com (JD -1.16%), China's biggest direct online retailer, has been one of many e-commerce winners in the market over the last year.
Its stock price has more than doubled during that time as its leadership in online categories like grocery and pharmacy has strengthened, and it's staking out ground in new businesses like logistics and telehealth.
On Thursday, JD.com's fourth-quarter report showed the company continued to execute across the business. Revenue rose 31.4% to $34.4 billion, topping analysts' estimate of $33.8 billion, and the company continued to gain leverage as adjusted operating income rose 72% to $186 million. On the bottom line, adjusted earnings per share nearly tripled to $0.23, beating expectations of $0.19.
After opening 5% higher, shares pulled back as the market seemed to shrug off those results. Still, the report shows JD.com making progress on a number of its key initiatives. Let's take a look at a few of the highlights from the quarter.
A record quarter for service revenues
A majority of JD.com's revenue comes from product sales -- its first-party e-commerce business -- but revenues from its services segment, which include its marketplace, advertising, logistics, and other services like healthcare, have been steadily outgrowing those from the product segment.
In the fourth quarter, services revenue grew by 53% to $4.9 billion, its fastest growth rate in 11 quarters. Though the services segment still only generates about 15% of overall revenue, investors should keep an eye on it, because these will be high-margin businesses once they reach scale, as they can leverage the power of JD's retail business. In many ways, the company seems to be following the same playbook that worked so well for Amazon. By layering service businesses over its e-commerce business, the U.S.-based tech giant went from breakeven in 2014 to generating $21 billion in profits last year.
As its service segment businesses gain strength, JD.com should experience similar margin improvements. Revenue at its new businesses, which include logistics, overseas businesses, and tech initiatives, doubled to $2.4 billion, another positive sign.
Chinese New Year sales were strong
Festivals like Singles Day, Chinese New Year, and the 6/18 holiday are major sales drivers for Chinese e-commerce companies like JD.com, Alibaba, and Pinduoduo so investors should pay attention to how they perform during these peak shopping events.
On the earnings call, CEO Xu Lei said that the government ordered people to not travel during the Chinese New Year holiday period in February, which led to "a surge of remote orders" as shoppers bought gifts for friends and family in other cities, adding that remote orders doubled during the holiday. It also said sales trends had normalized from a year ago when COVID-19 was widespread in China, and that consumers were again spending on things like beauty products and home appliances rather than cleaning supplies and masks.
In the first quarter of 2020, JD's sales growth slowed to 21% due to the impact of strict lockdowns, which sets the company up for comparatively strong growth in the current quarter. JD said last year it will no longer provide forward guidance, so investors will have to wait for the May earnings report to find out just how strong.
The spinoffs keep coming
JD.com successfully completed a listing of JD Health, its pharmacy e-commerce and telehealth business, in Hong Kong on Dec. 8, raising $4 billion. It's now valued at roughly $50 billion, and accounts for more than a third of JD.com's total market cap, after the business surged during the pandemic, which elevated demand for medicine and telehealth visits.
Now, JD.com looks set for another payday. It filed last month to list JD Logistics on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The unit -- the largest of JD.com's new businesses -- doubled in sales in the last quarter, and the company has been quickly expanding its logistics infrastructure, adding 200 warehouses and more than 40 million square feet of space. The stock offering is expected to raise $5 billion, valuing JD Logistics at $40 billion.
The current valuation of the health and logistics subsidiary shows that JD.com remains undervalued as JD Retail, its first-party e-commerce business, is its biggest driver of revenue and profit. That unit brought in $108 billion in revenue and $3 billion in operating income last year.
With a Shanghai IPO of its fintech subsidiary, JD Digits, also on the horizon, and the growth of JD Property, its real estate arm, JD.com has a bright future as more than just an e-commerce company.