Alibaba earnings beat estimates as revenue jumps 45 percent

Alibaba delivered quarterly earnings and revenue that topped analysts' expectations on Thursday, on a jump in gross merchandise volume.

American depositary shares of Alibaba popped in premarket trading following the announcement. (Click here to track its shares.)

The company also said on Thursday that Chief Executive Jonathan Lu will step down, effective May 10, and would be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zhang. Lu will remain on the board as vice chairman.

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The Chinese e-commerce giant posted fourth-quarter earnings excluding items of 48 cents per share in the quarter ended March 31. The company's revenue rose 45 percent to $2.81 billion.

Wall Street had expected the company to deliver quarterly earnings per share of 42 cents on $2.77 billion in revenue, according to consensus estimates from Thomson Reuters.

Alibaba's gross merchandise volume (GMV) on China retail marketplaces jumped 40 percent to $97 billion. Mobile GMV continued to grow, accounting for 51 percent of total GMV, up from 42 percent in the December quarter.

About two-thirds of Alibaba's sales still come from its consumer-to-consumer marketplace Taobao, where it primarily earns revenue from advertising and marketing services and charges less for marketing on mobile devices than on computers.

Visitors stand in front of the Alibaba Group stand at the 2015 CeBIT technology trade fair on March 20, 2015 in Hanover, Germany.
Nigel Treblin | Getty Images
Visitors stand in front of the Alibaba Group stand at the 2015 CeBIT technology trade fair on March 20, 2015 in Hanover, Germany.

"We assume that stepped up efforts to remove counterfeit goods has a measurable impact on GMV this quarter," MKM Partners analyst Rob Sanderson wrote in a note on May 4.

Investors have been spooked in recent months by the perception of increased regulatory pressure on Alibaba to tackle the sale of counterfeit goods on its platforms. Executive Chairman Jack Ma's hiring freeze announcement also dampened enthusiasm among those primed to expect continued rapid growth.

The number of mobile monthly active users soared 77 percent to 289 million. The number of overall annual active buyers increased 37 percent to 350 million.

The quarterly report card was only the third since Alibaba's record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering in New York in September.

Up to Wednesday's close, the stock had fallen more than 33 percent since hitting a record high of $120 in November.

The company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange last September has been facing a steady stock tumble as the company deals with a slower pace of economic growth in China. Its stock is 23 percent lower year to date but still trading above its IPO price.

Last week, the company's founder and chairman Jack Ma told his staff about a hiring freeze for the rest of the year.

"Alibaba has really developed too quickly ... this year our entire group headcount will not go up by one person," Ma said, according to a transcript of the April 23 speech carried on Alibaba's official messaging app Laiwang.

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Last month the Chinese e-commerce giant announced that it would fight counterfeit goods on its site through a range of methods. This came after a U.S. trade group pressed the American government to prod Alibaba to action.

CNBC's Terri Cullen and Reuters contributed to this report.