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Alibaba to Put Cap on Head Count

The Wall Street JournalAlibaba Group Holding Ltd. Executive Chairman Jack Ma said the Chinese e-commerce giant has been expanding too quickly, and that he plans to cap the size of the company’s workforce at current levels for the time being.

Mr. Ma said Alibaba, which has more than 30,000 employees, won’t increase its head count by even one person this year, according to a transcript of a speech given at an internal meeting in Beijing last week, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“The more people you have doesn’t mean the better,” Mr. Ma said, according to the transcript. “Only when an employee leaves will another join,” he said. Alibaba’s growth, he said, “has been too quick.”

Alibaba, founded by Mr. Ma and a group of colleagues in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou in 1999, has grown its workforce sharply in recent years as its online marketplaces boomed and it prepared for its record-setting $25 billion initial public offering last year. The company has also expanded beyond e-commerce, into areas such as entertainment , through acquisitions and alliances.

As of the end of last year, the company had 34,081 employees, compared with 20,884 at the end of 2013.

Mr. Ma said that while other large and successful companies may employ as many as 80,000 people, he believes 30,000-plus is plenty for Alibaba. “God bless them, I hope they perform better and better,” he said.

Despite its continued growth, Alibaba has had difficulty living up to high expectations from investors. In its most recent quarterly result , announced in late January, the company logged revenue growth of 40%, below analysts’ expectations and less than the 54% growth in the previous quarter, causing its share price to fall. The company has also faced more scrutiny from Chinese government officials who have criticized its shopping sites for not cracking down sufficiently on improper activities and counterfeit goods .

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