Alibaba's Singles' Day event.
STR/AFP/Getty Images
  • Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba used to give blow-by-blow updates on its sales figures on Singles' Day.
  • Analysts say Alibaba is taking a low-key approach this year to stay out of regulator scrutiny.
  • Competitor JD.com has already reported record sales of $48.6 billion.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba is playing it cool for its mega Singles' Day shopping festival this year.

Not only does it not have a glitzy counter displaying sales numbers in real time, it hasn't communicated any significant figures to show its blowout numbers as well. This is a big deal for a company that used to highlight eye-popping sales numbers achieved in the first hour and even in the first half-hour of the annual sales.

This year, all it's saying on its blog is that 382 brands have achieved sales of 100 million yuan ($15.6 million) each since November 1, when the event kicked off. That's not saying much at all, given that Apple sold $47 million in the first second of the sales event, as Alibaba said in its blog.

Analysts say Alibaba is taking a low-key approach to stay out of regulator scrutiny. The company's troubles started last year, when cofounder Jake Ma gave a speech criticising China's financial regulatory system. Ma's words angered the Chinese authorities, prompting intense regulatory scrutiny on his businesses.

Alibaba's fintech spin-off Ant Group, for example, has had its mega IPO - most recently valued at $35 billion -suspended since last November. And in December, Chinese regulators launched an antitrust investigation into Alibaba that resulted in a $2.8 billion fine.

Ma - a high profile businessman fond of flamboyant performances - also disappeared from public view for two months late last year before reappearing in a video conference in late January. He was sighted in Spain recently, Reuters reported, citing local media.

"This year's muted festivities are a perfect storm of economic, competitive and regulatory pressures," said Michael Norris, research strategy manager at Shanghai-based consultancy AgencyChina, per the Associated Press. "In terms of regulation, e-commerce platforms are coming to grips with how to align consumption extravaganzas with 'common prosperity' themes," he added to the AP.

"China's Double 11 loses glamour, focuses on high-quality growth amid tight regulations," Chinese Communist Party's Global Times newspaper surmised.

Alibaba did not immediately to Insider's request for comment on whether it will be releasing sales figures this year, but a spokesperson told the AFP numbers would only be announced after the event's window closes late on Thursday.

Competitor JD.com, on the other hand, has already reported record sales of 311.4 billion Chinese yuan ($48.6 billion), and the event is still ongoing. This surpasses the 271.5 billion Chinese yuan ($42.4 million) JD.com made in sales in the 11-day event last year.

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