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JD.com Sinks as Liu Arrest Rumors Compound Growing Bearish Calls

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(Bloomberg) — JD.com Inc. slumped to a record low in Hong Kong as Wall Street brokerages turned bearish on the stock and rumors swirled that a businessman with the same surname as the company’s chairman had been arrested.

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At least seven brokerage firms including Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. have either downgraded the stock or lowered price targets in the past two days. The stock extended its drop after JD.com said on its Weibo account it had lodged a police report over a rumor that a businessman surnamed Liu had been arrested on suspicion of violation of laws. The firm’s chairman is Richard Liu.

JD.com’s share price has halved since the start of the year, reflecting concerns about China’s sluggish consumption as the authorities struggle to revive spending and growth. A subdued domestic inflation print released Friday and lackluster spending data from the Golden Week Holiday suggest that the retailer may face an uphill battle in trying to reverse the negative sentiment.

“We expect a long-term trend of consumption downgrade in China, and if JD is not able to successfully implement its low price strategy that caters to the trend, we think it could be in a structurally less favorable position in China’s e-commerce market,” Morgan Stanley analysts including Eddy Wang wrote in a note.

JD.com’s shares dropped as much as 13% to an all-time low of HK$102.50 since its listing in 2020 in Hong Kong. Its US-listed shares fell as much as 4.4% in premarket trading on Friday. The move came after a slew of brokerages cut their outlook on the stock, citing worries about how the firm will grow its revenue amid the weaker macro environment in China.

The outlook has been challenging as consumer demand for big-ticket items — a segment that the company used to thrive on in the past — has been particularly weak in China, To make matters worse, its massive discount campaign hasn’t helped in fending off the challenge from PDD Holdings Inc., which is grabbing market share by using a low price strategy.

“Heading into 4Q23, despite seasonally strong 11.11 promotion, we believe cautious consumption sentiment and competitive pricing discount are likely to weigh on any meaningful rebound of growth for JD,” Citigroup analysts including Alicia Yap wrote in a note.

–With assistance from Subrat Patnaik.

(Updates with premarket moves. An earlier version of the story removed a photo which showed JD Sports, instead of JD.com)

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