Retail and consumers

Meme stock investor Ryan Cohen launches campaign at Alibaba

Ryan Cohen, the investor popular among meme stock traders, is pressing Alibaba to speed up its share buyback plan after acquiring a minority stake in the Chinese ecommerce group.

The exact size of the stake could not be determined but it is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the matter. Cohen started lobbying Alibaba, which has a market capitalisation of more than $300bn, in the second half of last year, they said.

Cohen is one of the most prominent figures in the retail trading boom and has been behind the stock market rallies of companies such as GameStop and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

News of his position, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes a few months after Alibaba announced it is adding $15bn of firepower to its share repurchase programme, which runs to the end of the fiscal year 2025.

It is unclear how influential Cohen has been in pushing Alibaba to take action given the size of his stake relative to the company’s market value. However, his popularity among social media-savvy retail investors could force the company to pay greater attention to his demands to avoid being targeted by his followers.

A representative for Cohen declined to comment.

Alibaba has been struggling of late partly because of the impact of China’s strict zero-Covid lockdowns, which hurt consumer spending, and a tougher regulatory environment in its home market. Alibaba paid a record $2.8bn antitrust fine in 2021 and pledged to halt the practice of forcing some of its sellers to stay away from rival ecommerce platforms.

Alibaba’s share price has dropped more than 60 per cent since its peak in late 2020 as a result of various headwinds, including government intervention to block the public listing of its sister company Ant Group two years ago.

Cohen built his fortune as the co-founder of Chewy, the pet supplier retailer he sold for $3.35bn in 2017. He joined GameStop’s board in January 2021, after disclosing a 13 per cent stake in the company, and helped send its stock price shooting upwards in what many consider one of the catalysts for the retailer’s meme stock rally.

The 37-year-old’s investment in a Chinese company comes as many investors have cut exposure to the country following Beijing’s tech crackdown.


Business Asia
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