Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is replacing its long-serving chief financial officer and reshuffling the CEOs of its commerce operations, marking the most significant management changes since the Chinese company emerged from a bruising antitrust investigation.
Toby Xu will take over as CFO on April 1st, the company announced late Sunday. According to the announcement, Wu will remain in the Alibaba Partnership and serve as an executive director on the board of the internet company. Separately, Alibaba announced the formation of two Digital Commerce teams: one for foreign markets, led by Jiang Fan, and another for domestic markets, led by Trudy Dai, in a blog post.
Alibaba shares fell as much as 8.3 percent in early Hong Kong trading, extending the company’s year-to-date losses to more than 50 percent after Didi Global Inc.’s plans to delist from the New York Stock Exchange raised renewed worry about Chinese internet firms traded on the NYSE.
The Hangzhou-based company is reorganizing its management team as headwinds intensify. Following a record antitrust fine earlier this year, the online retailer has had to manage heightened regulatory scrutiny while fending off increased competition, which caused it to lower its revenue forecast last month. In response to the increasing problems, Dow Jones revealed last month that Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang is delegating some control to heads of the company’s business groups in an effort to make the divisions more flexible.
“We are long-term minded, and succession within our management team on every occasion is always in the service of ensuring Alibaba will be stronger and better positioned for the future,” Zhang said in a statement issued on Sunday.
Wu has worked for the Chinese internet retailer for about 15 years and was key in the company’s listings in New York and Hong Kong. Her departure is especially noteworthy given Wu’s position as one of China’s most famous female executives in the internet sector. Xu joined Alibaba three years ago as a partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and was named deputy CFO in July 2019.
“Markets will always have ups and downs, but Alibaba has long-term aspirations that are ambitious,” Wu said in a statement. “We’re in a relay race, and we need new generations of talent to move the organization ahead.”
According to Alibaba’s website, the International Digital Commerce unit will supervise the AliExpress logistics service, Alibaba.com, and the Southeast Asian platform Lazada. Jiang, who joined Alibaba in 2013 and formerly oversaw Taobao and Tmall, the company’s primary Chinese e-commerce sites, will be in charge of expanding the company’s 285 million foreign customers.
However, the executive faced backlash last year as a result of a social media scandal that quickly developed into Alibaba’s worst public relations disaster to date. According to Bloomberg News, the firm’s handling of the matter irritated government authorities and sparked concerns about Jack Ma and Alibaba’s expanding influence over public opinion.
Dai, who was previously Alibaba’s chief customer officer and headed units such as its industrial e-commerce companies and the fast-growing community marketplace Taocaicai, will now take over at the crucial domestic company.
Dai is taking over as CEO of Alibaba’s domestic e-commerce sector, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the company’s revenue. Alibaba is experiencing increased competition from rivals such as Pinduoduo Inc., which has surpassed the larger firm in terms of domestic users, as well as upstarts such as ByteDance Inc. in sectors such as live-streamed e-commerce.
Its annual Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza grew at the slowest rate on record this year, as the business reduced discounts and moved its attention to philanthropy and sustainability efforts to better match with Beijing’s aims. As it pursues fresh growth drivers, Alibaba has also been reinvesting its revenues in new industries and technologies.
“While the changeover was portrayed as planned, it will raise concerns as Alibaba continues to invest at record levels in new ventures,” said Michael Norris, an analyst with Shanghai-based consultancy AgencyChina.