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JD.com gains as Alibaba feels pain in virus scramble

China's No. 2 e-tailer reaps benefits of own supply chain and logistics

A JD.com delivery worker wearing a face mask unloads parcels outside a residential compound in Beijing on Feb. 21.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Second-ranked Chinese e-retailing platform JD.com offered a rare note of optimism Monday amid widespread coronavirus gloom, forecasting double-digit revenue growth for the current quarter.

The Nasdaq-listed company expects net revenue to increase "at least 10%" on the year for the January-March period -- a sharp contrast to larger rival Alibaba Group Holding, which warned last month that first-quarter revenue in its core commerce business would likely drop.

JD.com rapidly bounced back from virus-related disruptions by virtue of its "investments in our self-operated, proprietary supply chain and logistics network," Chief Financial Officer Sidney Huang said in an earnings call Monday.

As a direct retailer, the company has its own inventories and warehouses, as well as a well-established logistics network enabling same- or next-day delivery. JD Logistics is reportedly seeking an $8 billion to $10 billion listing in the second half.

JD.com "was able to resume full operations very quickly after the Chinese New Year and has been in a unique position to provide broad product selection and uninterrupted timely service to our customers in most parts of the country as people turned to e-commerce for daily groceries and other necessities," Huang said.

Alibaba, whose e-commerce model focuses on third-party vendors and relies heavily on third-party logistics services to fulfill e-commerce orders, has struggled to capture shoppers' explosive demand for ordering daily necessities online amid supply chain and labor disruptions.

"JD.com was among the few companies and in many cases the only major platform" that could fulfill the orders, Huang said, later noting that the number of daily active customers and fulfilled orders on its platform have grown faster than a year earlier in recent weeks.

"With the greater consumer mindshare we have earned during this turbulent time with our existing and new engaged customers, we are more confident about our market position and our mid- to long-term growth prospects," Huang said.

The chief financial officer will retire in September to make way for JD.com Senior Vice President Sandy Xu, who doubles as CFO of JD Retail.

Revenue growth of 10% would still mark a significant slowdown from before, owing in part to low demand for durable and nonessential goods during the outbreak.

JD.com reported a better-than-expected fourth quarter of 2019, with net revenue of 170.7 billion yuan ($24.5 billion). Its shares were up 12% shortly after 2 p.m. Monday.

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