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Alibaba revenue growth tops forecasts but volume slides

China's Alibaba Group Holding is squeezing more money from online shopping than expected, beating analyst forecasts for revenue growth, as mobile shopping grows.

The company wrung out higher-than-expected revenue growth of 32 percent year-on-year, even as gross merchandise volume (GMV), the total value of goods transacted across its platforms, sank to its slowest annual growth rate in more than three years.

Alibaba's U.S.-listed shares closed about 4 percent higher on Tuesday, after rising as much as 8.4 percent during market hours.

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The group now faces a conundrum - despite executives' reassurances, there is evidence consumption in China is being affected as the country's economy heads for its slowest full-year growth in a quarter of a century.

"China online retail, like global online retail, is rapidly going mobile and Alibaba has reached a mobile monetization inflection point," RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney wrote in a note.

Alibaba is trying to replace decelerating volume growth in online shopping with new kinds of online buying, mirrored in its latest investments. For instance, Alibaba invested $4.6 billion in Suning Commerce Group during the quarter.

It also offered $3.5 billion to become sole owner of Youku Tudou, known as China's YouTube. Online video users in the country are beginning to cough up money for high-quality online streaming services.

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But the majority of Alibaba's revenue still comes from China's online shoppers buying from domestic businesses, a business driven by growth in GMV.

For the latest quarter, growth came mostly from Tmall, an Amazon-like website allowing businesses to sell to customers, where GMV rose 56 percent.

Gains at Taobao, more akin to eBay and by far the company's biggest contributor to GMV, showed signs of slowing at just 15 percent.

That prompted analysts to ask Alibaba executives if focus was shifting from Taobao, yet executives gave little away on that point.

Alibaba's revenue rose to $3.49 billion in the three months ended Sept. 30, beating the average analyst estimate of $3.44 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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Net income attributable to shareholders reached $3.58 billion, or $1.40 per share. Excluding items, Alibaba earned 57 cents per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 54 cents.

Alibaba shares closed at $79.44 on the New York Stock Exchange.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the revenue estimate to million from billion.