Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba eyes mega IPO in US

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: May 07, 2014 23:32 IST

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba filed papers in the US on Tuesday, announcing its intention to sell its stock in what is being billed as the largest initial public offering (IPO) ever.

The company said it wants to raise $1 billion, but analysts believe it could easily bring in between $15 and $20 billion beating Facebook's record $16 billion in 2012.

Most of the cash raised will go to Yahoo, which bought 40% of Alibaba's stocks for $1 billion in 2005, and must offload a third of its current holdings of 22.6% in the IPO.

The stocks are expected to go on sale later this summer but the excitement is on, starting with the filing of papers after the closure of markets on Tuesday.

Founded 15 years ago in a one-room apartment in Hangzhou, by former English teacher Jack Ma, the company had 213 million active users in 2013, according to filed papers.

And $248 billion were spent on its retail sites, which is more than the annual economic output of some countries. Its online payment site, Alipay handled $519 billion in transactions.

Unlike Amazon, Alibaba doesn't sell products itself. It merely offers a platform for sellers and buyers through its most popular sites Taobao and the upscale Tmall.

It generates revenue from commission on sales. For every $1 revenue it retains 50% as operating profit, compared to 37% at Facebook and 28% at Google, according to reports.

Alibaba is a hugely profitable venture and one that was shrouded in mystery. The filings afforded the most comprehensive look at the company yet, and investors were excited by what they saw.

"Put simply, investing in Alibaba is a bet on China and its continued rapid growth," The Wall Street Journal advised its readers.

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