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Credit Analysis

Beyond Amazon, Alibaba Leads Disruptive Innovation In Race To $1 Trillion Valuation

Judge OKs AT&T/Time Warner, Opening A Potential Bidding War For FOX Assets

Technology, Media & Telecom

Kagan MediaTalk - Episode 2: TV’s Summer Soccer Fever

50 Years Of Altman Z-score, And PD Model Fundamentals – Case Study General Motors

Energy

Power Forecast Briefing: Fleet Transformation, Under-Powered Markets, and Green Energy in 2018

Credit Analysis
Beyond Amazon, Alibaba Leads Disruptive Innovation In Race To $1 Trillion Valuation

The race to become the first trillion dollar company is heating up, with everyone paying close attention to the tech mega-caps — Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Despite a lack of consensus over who will take the crown, one thing is evident: no two companies in the race are as neck and neck and as similar in business strategy and operations as Amazon and Alibaba. Both champion the e-commerce landscape in their specific countries – Amazon in the U.S. and Alibaba in China - and both have made their forays into new industries such as food and healthcare.

Wall Street is following these companies closely, with Alibaba slightly in the lead in terms of analyst recommendations. As of April 2, 2018, the Chinese e-commerce behemoth has received 37 buy ratings and just two hold, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. The average analyst price target of $226.44 suggests upside potential of roughly 23%. Amazon, in contrast, has received 31 buy ratings and two hold. The average analyst price target of $1,709.05 suggests upside potential of roughly 18%.

To keep a tally of the race, we used the RatingsDirect® Monitor, a data visualization portfolio monitoring tool that provides risk/return insights and helps track and analyze market movements for publicly-traded companies that are rated by S&P Global Ratings.

Figure 1: Tech Mega-Caps: S&P Issuer Credit Rating (FCLT) vs. 3M Stock Price Volatility (%)

Tech mega-caps: S&P Issuer Credit Rating (FCLT) vs. 3M Stock Price Volatility (%)

For illustrative purposes only.

At a market cap of $471.6 billion, Alibaba is not too far off from catching up to Amazon’s $700.7 billion cap. Alibaba stock’s price has observed a three-month price volatility of 40.1%, the largest among the tech titans and far surpassing Amazon’s 30.8%.

Although the higher volatility and lower S&P Global Ratings’ long-term credit rating present more risks for investors, Alibaba’s higher return on assets and lower P/E and leverage ratio suggest more opportunities for the Chinese e-commerce behemoth to grow and reach the $1 trillion valuation first.

Comparing disruptive levels of innovation

To compare the disruptive level of innovation in the various sectors that Amazon and Alibaba have entered, we selected comparable events between the two conglomerates and examined industry-level probability of default (PD) changes of the PD Market Signal Model, a structural model that calculates the likelihood of a company defaulting on its debt or entering bankruptcy protection over a one-to-five year horizon.

The war for groceries

Both Amazon and Alibaba have been stepping up their battle in the grocery business. Just last year, Amazon’s announcement to purchase Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7 billion shocked investors, with shares of some of U.S. food’s largest players – Kroger Co. Supervalu Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., Target Corp., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. – dipping on the news. The market perceived credit risk of the U.S. food retail industry also escalated. One week following the announcement, the U.S. food retail PD jumped from 3.73% on June 15, 2017 to 4.85% on June 23, 2017, or about a 30% increase in the industry’s probability of default.

Figure 2: U.S. Food Retail Median Market Signal Probability of Default: June 15, 2017 – June 23, 2017 (%)

U.S. food retail median Market Signal Probability of Default: June 15, 2017 – June 23, 2017 (%)

Alibaba also aggressively expanded its food footprint in 2017 with its rollout of new supermarkets under the Hema Xiansheng brand and its $2.9 billion investment in China’s largest hypermarket operator Sun Art Retail Group. Just this year, reports that Alibaba held early development talks with Kroger Co. left the Chinese food industry shaking. One week following reports of the discussions by Reuters and New York Post, China’s food retail PD increased 109.10% from 3.05% on January 23, 2018 to 6.39% on January 31, 2018. [i] [ii]

Figure 3: China Food Retail Median Market Signal Probability of Default: January 23, 2018 – January 31, 2018 (%)

China food retail median Market Signal Probability of Default: January 23, 2018 – January 31, 2018 (%)

The battle for pharma

Pharmaceuticals have been another potential battleground for the e-commerce giants.

According to an October 5, 2017 note published by Leerink Partners managing director Dr. Ana Gupte, Amazon is “hiring relevant talent and are in active discussions with mid-market PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] and possibly even larger players such as Prime Therapeutics.” Following publication of the note, the U.S. drug retail PD escalated 22.55% from 16.16% on October 4, 2017 to 19.81% on October 12, 2017.

Figure 4: U.S. Drug Retail Median Market Signal Probability of Default: October 4, 2017 – October 12, 2017 (%)

U.S. drug retail median Market Signal Probability of Default: October 4, 2017 – October 12, 2017 (%)

Similarly, China’s drug retail PD jumped 90.67% from 1.55% on February 1, 2018 to 2.96% on February 9, 2018, following Alibaba’s February 2, 2018 announcement to partner with European pharma giant AstraZeneca PLC.

Figure 5: China Drug Retail Median Market Signal Probability of Default: February 1, 2018 – February 9, 2018 (%)

China drug retail median Market Signal Probability of Default: February 1, 2018 – February 9, 2018 (%)

The risks of innovation

In summary, our PD Market Signal model shows that Alibaba disrupts the short-term market perceived credit quality of firms more than Amazon does. The Chinese e-commerce behemoth is viewed by many investors as a proxy for China's consumer economy and growing middle class, whereas Amazon is not, and PD movements are reflective of this. As illustrated by our RatingsDirect® Monitor, Alibaba has a much lower leverage compared to Amazon, with a last-twelve-months Debt/EBITDA ratio of 1.4, compared to Amazon’s 2.9. Alibaba also has higher growth potential from the perspective of ROA and P/E. Alibaba’s ROA stands at 7.4%, compared to Amazon’s 2.4%. Further, Alibaba’s lower P/E ratio of 46.3, compared to Amazon’s 235.3, suggests that the Chinese firm may be undervalued.

Figure 6: Tech Mega-Caps: ROA (%) vs. Debt/EBITDA (x)

Tech mega-caps: ROA (%) vs. Debt/EBITDA (x)

For illustrative purposes only.

Figure 7: Tech Mega-Caps: ROA (%) vs. P/E Ratio (x)

Tech mega-caps: ROA (%) vs. P/E Ratio (x)

For illustrative purposes only.

Whether Alibaba will claim the $1 trillion title before Amazon, however, remains to be seen. A fast growing company, Alibaba faces significant challenges from China’s ever-changing business environment, including potential regulatory, litigation, and international expansion risks, as outlined in roughly 45 pages of the firm’s most recent annual report.

Despite the inherent risks, what sets Alibaba apart is its domination of China’s online marketplace, which is the single-largest in the world. Founder Jack Ma has also been faster than Bezos to expand his business lines. The use of Alipay, one of the world’s largest mobile payment platforms, and the firm’s roughly $350 million investment in Chinese electric-vehicle maker Foxconn Technology Group are just a few examples of the firm’s growing economies of scale.

[i] Alibaba, U.S. grocer Kroger had early business development talks: source. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kroger-alibaba/alibaba-u-s-grocer-kroger-had-early-business-development-talks-source-idUSKBN1FE0EF

[ii] To battle Amazon, Kroger eyes Alibaba alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://nypost.com/2018/01/24/krogers-answer-to-amazon-go-alibaba/


Technology, Media & Telecommunication
Judge OKs AT&T/Time Warner, Opening A Potential Bidding War For FOX Assets

Highlights

A federal judge approved the AT&T – Time Warner Merger, setting the stage for a frenzy of media consolidation. First up: a bidding war over 21st Century Fox.

The following post comes from Kagan, a research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

To learn more about our TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) products and/or research, please request a demo.

Jun. 14 2018 — A U.S. district judge on June 12 approved AT&T Inc.'s acquisition of Time Warner Inc. with no restrictions, which should open up the media M&A floodgates in a world that is increasingly moving toward digital consumption of content. First up to bat: competitive bidding for most of 21st Century Fox Inc.

Comcast Corp., emboldened by the decision that the merger did not violate antitrust laws, offered on June 13 to purchase most of 21st Century Fox for $79.17 billion in cash, a 19.7% premium to Walt Disney Co.'s stock offer of $66.14 billion, worth $68.36 billion based on the close of Disney's stock June 13.

On a cash flow basis, the deal would be expensive, at 14.1x 2018 cash flow, although this drops to less than 10x when $2 billion in synergies are factored in.

Although the offer from Comcast is attractive, we think a competing offer that allowed shareholders to choose cash or stock may have been more attractive to some shareholders that have a low basis in their shares. Since this deal was widely expected to be announced, Disney has had plenty of time to consider whether it will bid higher, and if so, if it will do so with a mix of stock and cash. Should the board decide Comcast has the better deal, Disney would have five days to come up with a counter offer.

As the table below shows, the regional sports networks are the most expensive piece of the company, valued at an estimated $19.14 billion in the Comcast offer.

Disney-Fox deal: What will the Department of Justice think?

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Listen: Kagan MediaTalk - Episode 2: TV’s Summer Soccer Fever

The following post comes from Kagan, a research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. To learn more about our TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) products and/or research, please request a demo.

In this second episode of Kagan MediaTalk, senior research analysts Justin Nielson and Tony Lenoir discuss the upcoming FIFA World Cup, to be held in Russia June 14-July 15, and what soccer's biggest international stage means for the U.S. TV ecosystem.

In addition to being hosted on Soundcloud this podcast is also available on iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn.

No content (including ratings, credit-related analyses and data, valuations, model, software or other application or output therefrom) or any part thereof (Content) may be modified, reverse engineered, reproduced or distributed in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC or its affiliates (collectively, S&P).


Credit Analysis
50 Years Of Altman Z-score, And PD Model Fundamentals – Case Study General Motors

Jun. 11 2018 — The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Altman Z-score, which was designed to gauge credit strength of publicly traded manufacturing corporates. Until this day, the model has been used by financial practitioners to obtain a condensed picture of the financial strength of a company, and serves as a benchmark for credit risk assessment models.

As a part of providing data and tools for a comprehensive analysis of credit risk, S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed a family of PD Model Fundamentals (PDFN). The PDFN is a statistical model that produces probability of default (PD) values over a one- to more than thirty-year horizon for public and private banks and corporations of any size. The model maps the PD values to credit scores1 (i.e. ‘bbb’), based on historical observed default rates (ODRs) extracted from S&P Global Ratings’ database (available on CreditPro® ) PDFN also offers a global coverage of over 250 countries and more than 20 segments, regions, and industries.

PDFN incorporates both financial risk and business risk to generate the overall PD value. This innovative approach captures, in a statistical PD model, important credit risk drivers as identified by S&P Global Ratings’ extensive experience in corporate credit assessments, and provides users with a well-rounded measure of credit risk, where different sources can be easily identified.

We apply the credit assessment metrics to analyze one of the most publicized bankruptcy events in the last decade, the case of General Motors (General Motors Company, formerly General Motors Corporation). In Figure 1 we present the historical evolution of credit risk for General Motors (GM) from January 2005 to May 2018, accompanied by bankruptcy related Key Developments. We compare assessed credit score by PDFN, Altman Z-score, and corresponding S&P Global Ratings Issuer Credit Rating.

At the beginning of 2005, PDFN indicates a credit risk score of ‘bbb-‘, while the S&P Global Ratings Issuer Credit Rating is ‘BBB-‘. The credit risk score indicates that General Motors had adequate capacity to meet its financial commitments. However, adverse economic conditions or changing circumstances are more likely to lead to a weakened capacity of the obligor to meet its financial commitments. Likewise, the Z-score indicates a rather problematic financial situation, placing General Motors in distressed zone category.

In the following months, the credit quality of General Motors rapidly deteriorated. PDFN signals highly increased probability of financial distress already at the beginning of 2007, more than two years in advance. The implied ‘ccc’ credit score suggests high vulnerability to adverse business, financial, or economic conditions with at least a one-in-two likelihood of default. A few months before default, PDFN indicates a credit score of ‘cc’, thus expecting default to be highly likely. Similarly, the S&P Global Ratings Issuer Credit Ratings shows decaying credit quality, albeit the credit rating changes are more sporadic and have larger increments. The Z-score starts to show a significant deterioration of credit quality one year prior to default, but with a notable lag in comparison with PDFN.

After completion of the post-bankruptcy reorganization, creditworthiness of General Motors improved, and PDFN indicates a fairly stable credit risk profile with an implied score of ‘bbb’. In comparison, S&P Global Ratings Issuer Credit Rating initially shows a greater conservatism in light of the reorganization processes. Since then, the credit rating has improved steadily, converging with PDFN estimate. Z-score shows a somewhat steady estimate of credit risk, with a slight deterioration in the recent years.

Figure 1: Historical evolution of credit risk for General Motors (GM)

The shaded area denotes the period of reorganization between the bankruptcy announcement and reemergence of General Motors (GM) as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Dashed vertical lines denote bankruptcy related Key Development (see corresponding numbers for details). The Z-score scale has been selected to match the credit score level at the beginning of the period.

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence (as of May 30th, 2018). For illustrative purposes only.

General Motors (GM) – Key Developments:
(1) Nov 8, 2008: GM heads towards bankruptcy
(2) Dec 31, 2008: GM expects to receive $13.40 billion in funding from U.S. Department of The Treasury.
(3) Feb 14, 2009: GM contemplates bankruptcy
(4) Jun 1, 2009: GM filed for bankruptcy
(5) Nov 17, 2010: GM has completed an IPO and starts trading on NYSE

PDFN incorporates both financial and business risk dimensions to generate an overall PD value as well as an assessment of each individual dimension (financial and business risk). It also comes equipped with a useful analytic tool, the contribution analysis, which allows users to identify drivers of risk, in absolute or relative terms, to define potential paths to creditworthiness improvement or deterioration.

Figure 2 presents the current credit risk profile of General Motors as provided by the PDFN based on last twelve months of data. The contribution analysis indicates that overall business risk is strong, but the company’s financial position is aggressive and is currently the main driver of overall PD estimate. A deep dive analysis shows a weak total equity position which in addition to profitability (EBIT/Total Assets) and efficiency (EBIT/Revenues), resulting in limited financial flexibility (Retained Earnings/Total Assets), represent the risk factors with the largest driver for the assigned credit risk score for General Motors.

Figure 2: Credit risk profile of General Motors (GM)

Source: S&P Global Market Intelligence (as of May 30th, 2018). For illustrative purposes only.

This case study exemplifies the value of PD Model Fundamentals, in providing predictive insights into companies’ creditworthiness and dynamic estimates of PD value and mapped credit score. Our model was trained and calibrated on default flags and is able to signal deterioration of credit quality well in advance of the actual bankruptcy event. The combination of both financial risk and business risk enables a comprehensive overview of a company's creditworthiness, while also providing an in-depth review of a company's credit risk profile to identify and distinguish the main sources of risk. S&P Global Market Intelligence leverages leading experience in developing PD models to achieve a high level of accuracy and a robust out-of-sample model performance. The integration of PDFN into the S&P Capital IQ platform allows users to access a global pre-scored database with more than 45,000 public companies and almost 700,000 private companies, obtain PD values for single or multiple companies, and perform a scenario analysis.

1 S&P Global Ratings does not participate in the creation of credit scores generated by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Lowercase nomenclature is used to differentiate S&P Global Market Intelligence PD credit model scores from the uppercase credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings.

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Watch: Power Forecast Briefing: Fleet Transformation, Under-Powered Markets, and Green Energy in 2018

Steve Piper shares Power Forecast insights and a recap of recent events in the US power markets in Q4 of 2017. Watch our video for power generation trends and forecasts for utilities in 2018.