Sina Narrows Its 1Q Loss As It Counts On Weibo-Alibaba Deal To Bolster Ad Revenue

Despite rising costs and increasing competition from rivals like Tencent, Chinese Internet giant Sina narrowed its first-quarter net loss to $13.2 million from $13.7 million a year earlier, the company reported today. Sina’s net revenue increased 19 percent year-over-year to $126 million, strengthened by stronger-than-expected non-advertising revenue.

The company’s Sina Weibo is China’s largest microblogging service, with over 46 million daily users. Last month, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group bought a 18 percent stake in Sina Weibo for $586 million, a deal that valued the site at over $3 billion.

Sina hopes that the Alibaba deal will allow it to strengthen advertising revenue despite the slowdown in ad sales that has hit all major Chinese Internet companies, including Baidu and Tencent. Sina’s ad sales dropped 15 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter to $94.3 million.

Adjusted non-advertising revenue, which includes revenue share from Web games and membership fees on Sina Weibo, increased 17 percent to $27 million, more than the range of $21 million to $23 million range forecast by the company.

“As we start 2013, we are making good progress in transitioning from a PC-centric to a mobile-centric Internet company with new product launches and improved monetization,” said Sina chairman and CEO Charles Chao in the earnings release. “In April, we formed a strategic alliance with Alibaba Group to catapult us into social commerce. By partnering with Alibaba, Weibo is well positioned to play a key role in the future of e-commerce, particularly in mobile commerce as we explore ways to search, share and buy the goods and services of the millions of merchants on Taobao and Tmall.”