Since the market bottom during the onslaught of the pandemic, Tesla (TSLA 1.47%) has returned over 1,400% for investors, a return only a few meme stocks can rival. Its meteoric rise helped the electric vehicle maker break through the trillion-dollar valuation, and it's now worth more than the next 30 or so auto manufacturers combined! That includes the likes of Ford, GM, and Toyota, as well as EV upstarts such as NIO, Xpeng, and Rivian.
To put that in perspective, Tesla has delivered over 628,000 EVs through the first three quarters of 2021, and if it should sell another 270,000 or so, it will have delivered 900,000 vehicles this year, a phenomenal growth record for the EV industry leader.
Yet through November, Ford has sold more than 1.7 million vehicles, and though the chip shortage continues to wreak havoc on carmakers, the Blue Oval should end the year with twice as many vehicle sales as Tesla. Now add in all the cars sold by other old-line car manufacturers, and it's understandable why some analysts think Tesla's $1,086 per-share stock price is a bit overblown.
An internet sales behemoth
Certainly Tesla is having a banner year, but so is Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com (JD -2.12%). Third-quarter revenue for the internet retailer jumped 25% from last year to hit $33.9 billion (or more than three times as much as Tesla recorded for the period).
During the annual Singles Day sales event, an 11-day shopping extravaganza participated in by retailers across the country, JD.com alone generated $54.6 billion in gross merchandise volume. Again for more perspective, Amazon generated sales of $11.2 billion across its two-day Prime Day event.
Obviously the Chinese market is orders of magnitude larger than that of the U.S., and unlike Amazon, JD.com operates more like eBay because it's a platform for third-party sellers to sell goods rather than selling products itself. Yet that just underscores how undervalued JD.com seemingly is. It has a market capitalization one-tenth that of Tesla, or $107 billion. That also puts it about a third of the size of rival Alibaba, which has had a spate of weak earnings reports.
Not so for JD.com. Annual active customers are running 25% higher than last year, hitting 552.2 million, and service revenue surged 43% to $5.1 billion. It's entering new markets like groceries and pharmacy, which will diversify its business away from consumer electronics and appliances, while establishing a physical retail presence through JD Mall, a Xian, China shopping mall. That's actually in addition to JD Super Experience, a store for consumer electronics it opened in March.
Clouds on the horizon
Of course, it's risky business to invest in Chinese stocks these days as Beijing continues to apply pressure to tech giants and the wealthy. There has always been a bit of push and pull between capitalist businesses operating in the communist country and the government, but that government has been waging a battle against the monied interests in China for over two years now.
JD.com has said it has nothing to worry about as it complies with all the edicts of the government, but you never know where the mercurial rulers and regulators will target next.
Still, Wall Street remains generally upbeat about the e-commerce giant and has set a consensus one-year price target of $103.50 per share, or about 51% above where it currently trades.
A race to the finish line
Over the next decade, it seems likely JD.com's value will increase significantly, even with the headwinds of closer regulatory scrutiny, simply because the genie of online shopping can't ever be put back in the bottle. The internet retailer is an integral part of the Chinese economy, and breaking that bond would be disastrous for everyone.
Can it gain Tesla-like heights? While becoming a trillion-dollar company seems hard to imagine, even over the next decade, a combination of Tesla having a more down-to-earth valuation, coupled with JD.com's own value growing, makes it quite possible, even likely, that the e-commerce leader could be worth more than the EV maker.