* Alibaba announces $6 bln share buyback program
* Two-year program replaces existing one
* Revenue in quarter to end-March beats forecasts
* Adjusted EPS 4.35 yuan, vs estimated 4.48 yuan (Releads, adds details throughout)
By Cate Cadell and Supantha Mukherjee
May 18 (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said on Thursday it would buy back shares worth up to $6 billion over two years, as it beat first quarter revenue forecasts but missed income estimates.
The Chinese company, which is looking to grow its business beyond e-commerce and is targeting new lines in cloud computing, big data, entertainment and offline retail, says the repurchase will replace its existing buyback program.
Alibaba said strength in the Chinese e-commerce market helped its total revenue rise to 38.6 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in the quarter to the end of March, versus an average forecast of 36 billion yuan according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
But Alibaba’s adjusted EPS (earnings per share) was 4.35 yuan ($0.63), versus estimates of 4.48 yuan.
Alibaba has ramped up expansion outside of China and consolidated its Southeast Asian retail site Lazada, which it acquired last year. This included integrating the Singapore-based platform’s payment system, Hello Pay, with Alibaba’s own payment affiliate, Alipay.
It has taken steps to expand its U.S. merchant base over the past quarter and said it plans to host an event next month, which 1,000 U.S. businesses are expected to attend.
This U.S. push follows a meeting between chairman Jack Ma and U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this year, at which Ma pledged to create one million jobs in the country.
Revenue from Alibaba’s core e-commerce business grew by 47 percent to 31.6 billion yuan in the quarter, up from the previous quarter’s growth rate of 45 percent.
Meanwhile net income attributable to shareholders rose to 10.6 billion yuan, up 98 percent from 5.4 billion yuan in the year-earlier quarter.
Its digital media and entertainment business saw an increase in revenue of 234 percent to 3.9 billion yuan, reflecting the dividends from the consolidation of Youku Tudou, which Alibaba acquired for $3.5 billion in October.
Alibaba’s cloud business continued its run of triple-digit growth, recording revenue of 2.2 billion yuan for the quarter, up 103 percent from a year earlier. ($1 = 6.8908 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Editing by Sam Holmes, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Alexander Smith)