Alibaba plans to sell up to $8 bn bonds in show of strength as Jack Ma faces pressure in China
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is looking to raise as much as $8 billion selling dollar bonds as early as next week, giving global investors a chance to bet on the Chinese e-commerce giant’s long-term prospects at a time when the company and its co-founder face intense government pressure back home.
The company aims to raise at least $5 billion but could wind up with more depending on the reception, according to people familiar with the matter who aren’t authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. The deal will be a multi-tranche offering, with specific tenors yet to be determined, they said. Alibaba declined to comment. Reuters earlier reported the planned sale.
Pulling off the sale as Jack Ma’s internet empire faces a regulatory crackdown and antitrust probe would be a sign of global investor confidence in the company. In recent months, officials blocked Ant Group Co.’s $35 billion IPO, proposed new rules to curb the dominance of internet giants and fined Alibaba over acquisitions from years before. Closer scrutiny of mergers and acquisitions could add uncertainty over the growth of large internet firms.
“We view the issuance as somewhat exploratory given the broader uncertainty around Ant/Jack Ma,” said Chuanyi Zhou, a credit analyst at Lucror Analytics in Singapore. “It may well reveal how seriously global investors perceive the rapidly evolving regulatory environment in China and the potential impact on Alibaba.”
Alibaba raised about $11 billion from its Hong Kong stock sale in late 2019, and had a cash hoard of almost $90 billion at the end of September.
The sale comes as companies flock to global bond markets, where investors are seeking higher-yielding assets amid ultra-low interest rates and almost $18 trillion of negative-yielding debt. Borrowers have sold more than $65 billion of dollar bonds globally so far this year, following a record of over $3.6 trillion in 2020, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Alibaba tapped the global debt market in 2014 for the first time to raise $8 billion shortly after its landmark New York stock debut. It last came to the offshore market with a bumper $7 billion bond deal in 2017 and needs to repay or refinance some $1.5 billion of dollar debt which comes due this year, Bloomberg-compiled data show.
The company’s dollar bond due 2027 is trading at about 111 cents on the dollar, Bloomberg-compiled prices show.
Alibaba has in recent years spent billions acquiring stakes in promising startups, expanding its logistics network and cloud-hosting services, and building up an international business via Singapore-based online mall Lazada. It is now engaged in a bruising battle with Meituan in food delivery, while fending off rivals like JD.com Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. in businesses from groceries to retail.
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