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Alibaba: Barron's story contains factual errors

Alibaba fights back

Nearly a year after the largest initial public offer in history, Alibaba Group is used to questions being asked about its business.

But a story by Barron's on how the company's shares could plunge 50 percent from current levels has seen the company, possibly stung by the swath of critical commentary it has received in recent weeks as its stock fell below the $68 float price, swing into action.

Alibaba has published a letter on its website addressing what it believes are inconsistencies in the Barron's analysis. The Barron's article compared Alibaba's price/earnings ratio with other tech companies, its market share and the average spend by consumers, among other variables.

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Here are some of the highlights from the Alibaba letter, written by Jim Wilkinson, Alibaba's senior vice president for International Corporate Affairs to Edwin Finn, Barron's editor.

On valuing Alibaba's shares (emphasis Alibaba's):

"Comparing Alibaba's PE multiple to eBay's PE multiple is flawed because eBay does not operate in China. A more relevant comparison would be with our large-cap Chinese Internet peers. The PE multiples of Tencent and Baidu on consensus 2015 earnings are 31x and 24x, respectively."

On the company losing market share:

Our Taobao and Tmall marketplaces combined have an unrivaled leadership position in e-commerce in China. In the Tmall B2C segment, our market share according to iResearch is more than twice the share of the next closest player.

On the amount of money spent by customers on Alibaba's platforms:

The comparison of the average annual online spend of an Alibaba shopper with the average retail spend of Chinese citizens is inappropriate. Shoppers that come to Alibaba's platforms are early adopters of technology and tend to be urban and more affluent. It is flawed to compare Alibaba's number to a number derived from simply dividing the size of the Chinese retail economy by 1.3 billion people including 600 million people in the rural villages.

The Barron's story is here (behind a paywall). The Alibaba letter in full on its website.