Chinese film and tech group, Alibaba Pictures managed to slash its losses during the COVID-affected financial year to March 2021. It pointed to strength and scale of its content as the differentiator between this and previous years.
Revenue was little changed at RMB2.85 billion ($445 million). Losses attributable to owners of the company were RMB96 million ($15 million), compared with RMB1.15 billion ($192 million).
On another measure, including items that may be reclassified later, losses were RMB283 million (44.2 million), compared with RMB1.05 billion ($164 million). Net cash flow, expressed as EBITA, was positive for the first time at RMB118 million ($18.4 million), compared with an outflow of RMB661 million ($103 million)in the comparable reporting period.
A breakdown of revenues and profits by sector showed the content division outweighed the normally larger technology side of the group. This especially reflected the 30% fall in online movie ticketing recoded through Taopiaopiao.
(Mainland Chinese cinemas were entirely closed from late January 2020 to mid-July 2020, and then operated with significant capacity restrictions until late September. Since October, theatrical box office has tracked at nearly 90% of calendar 2019 levels.)
The restrictions “result(ed) in closures of cinemas, suspension of production of films and TV dramas, and a plunge in consumption demand for offline film content,” the group said. But it argues that it was well positioned to ride the economic recovery.
Alibaba Pictures was a producer on or distributor of 15 out of the top 20 Chinese films by box office during the 2020/21 financial year, contributing box office of over RMB24.7 billion ($3.86 billion) in aggregate. It was also involved in supplying content, TV dramas especially, to online video platforms.
Film titles on which it enjoyed a credit included: “The Eight Hundred,” “My People, My Homeland,” “Leap” and “Coffee or Tea?” all released at the National Day peak season. During the Christmas/New Year holiday, it was involved in “Shock Wave 2,” “A Little Red Flower” and “Warm Hug.” During Chinese New Year 2021 Alibaba Pictures participated in “Detective Chinatown 3,” “Hi, Mom” and “A Writer’s Odyssey.”
At the year end, Alibaba Pictures had completed its delisting form the Singapore Stock Exchange, leaving its shares quoted only in Hong Kong. It is 50.3% owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba.