Finimize - 💸 Alibaba's coming for Amazon's gig

Alibaba is becoming China's Amazon – if not in cloud tech, in investing | SoftBank put its losing streak in the past |


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Today's big stories

  1. Ecommerce giant Alibaba has been swapping computing services for shares in China’s budding AI companies
  2. This company and its industry should be sitting pretty, even as AI thunders on – Read Now
  3. SoftBank made $1.5 billion in profit last quarter, and it’s using AI investments to chase that high

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine

What’s going on here?

Reports showed that ecommerce titan Alibaba is set to become one of China’s biggest AI investors.

What does this mean?

Alibaba has been handing out cloud network credits to China’s rising AI stars, in a bid to get them hooked on the feature-rich public cloud before they hit the big time. And in exchange, it’s building up stakes in the budding businesses. But it’s not just credits being handed over: Alibaba’s been making like Microsoft during the last year, pouring cold, hard cash into the AI industry. The firm’s CEO has personally been steering investments toward startups like Moonshot, Zhipu, MiniMax, and, which are crafting local versions of US-made ChatGPT. That’s all part of a bid to make Alibaba a leader in AI innovation – an accolade that’s looking more likely now that the firm is set to become a leading local investor in generative AI.

Why should I care?

Zooming out: Alibaba needs a break.

It’s no mystery why Alibaba is exploring different ways to bring in cash. Ecommerce is Alibaba’s bread and butter – but right now, ByteDance and PDD Holdings are helping themselves to the loaf, winning over legions of online shoppers. To make matters worse, Alibaba’s cloud business has been trailing behind US rivals like Amazon Web Services over the last two years, with its revenue held back by the government’s tight leash on big internet firms.

The bigger picture: The cloud industry’s silver lining.

This is Alibaba’s chance to claw back some power. China’s venture capital scene is drying up, so AI startups are directing their pleas for cash to local internet giants – and the small fry certainly don’t have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating price. On top of that, US restrictions on chip exports have left China’s startups hungry for semiconductors. So these days, fledgling companies might be even more thankful for Alibaba’s tech hookups than its cash, letting the firm rack up allies without forking out.

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Analyst Take

This Stock Could Be The Next Big AI Play

This Stock Could Be The Next Big AI Play
Photo of Reda Farran, CFA

Reda Farran, CFA, Analyst

US electricity demand has been mostly static (forgive the pun) over the past decade.

But it's finally expected to pick up, thanks to the explosive growth of generative AI.

The innovative technology needs a ton of power, so utility companies – traditionally one of the most boring corners of the stock market – could offer investors a pretty exciting way to play the AI boom.

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That’s today’s Insight: this could be the next big AI play.

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What’s going on here?

SoftBank revealed its second quarterly profit in a row, after chip designer Arm rescued the Japanese conglomerate from its run of five straight losses.

What does this mean?

SoftBank has its 90% stake in Arm to thank for the turnaround. The British chip designer’s shares are up 70% since going public late last year, pushing SoftBank’s profit up to $1.5 billion. And to keep the books in the green, the firm is swapping splashy startup investments for thrifty salesmanship: SoftBank sold $2.5 billion in assets last quarter alone, while only putting $120 million into new ventures. That’s led to a $39 billion war chest of cash, ready to be deployed when the time is right – most likely, in the AI sector.

Why should I care?

For markets: The best of Britain.

Arm isn’t SoftBank’s only big British bet. The firm pumped over $1 billion into Wayve – a UK startup building innovative self-driving tech for cars – last week, in Europe’s biggest-ever AI funding deal. SoftBank’s also in talks to acquire Graphcore. Once valued at $2.8 billion, the British chip maker was previously touted as a potential Nvidia rival, despite falling on tougher times recently. So not only is SoftBank expanding its tech portfolio, but it’s also cementing the UK's reputation as a hotspot for AI innovation.

The bigger picture: You can’t count on tech.

Fortunes can turn on a dime in tech. Just look at Ark Invest: the fund manager became a social media sensation during the pandemic, successfully making bold bets on stocks like Tesla, Zoom, and Roku. But since then, high inflation and interest rates have weighed on speculative tech stocks, and the flagship ARKK fund has lost more than two-thirds of its value. In fact, its performance has been flat over the last five years, versus an 83% gain for the S&P 500.

You might also like: Investing in the Nasdaq.

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