Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is widely speculated to be preparing to IPO but the company, which grossed more revenue than Amazon and EBay combined, could snub a US listing in favor of going public in Hong Kong, according to a report from the Financial Times.
The FT further postulates that the much-anticipated IPO could happen as early as the final quarter of 2013, and will see the company valued at between $60 billion-$70 billion.
The article draws its conclusions from discussions with sources close to the deal. The newspaper says that three banks across the US and Asia are in discussions with Alibaba about its plans, with one source saying that “everything they are planning for is Hong Kong related.”
According to the source, Hong Kong is an attractive offer since it will mean that the company does not need to deal with American regulatory and accounting systems. Equally, a Hong Kong-based IPO is seen as “a matter of pride” for the company which is proudly Chinese, and has an office in Hong Kong.
Indeed, Alibaba.com — the Alibaba Group’s flagship B2B company — was listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange until being made private this year.
The US is a popular location for Chinese firms seeking an IPO, and companies floated in America include Sina, Baidu and Tencent. However, concerns about the global financial outlook and growing tensions between China and the US have seen the numbers slow, with just two companies floating in the US in 2012.
In that respect, Alibaba’s decision to publicly list closer to home would not only validate Hong Kong as an option for growing Asian firms, but would be a further blow for the Nasdaq, NYSE and other US institutions in their hopes of luring firms to list in the US.
It would also raise cheer among financial circles in Hong Kong, where economic downturn has affected the number of public listings. Hong Kong ranked first on IPO deals between 2009 and 2011, but fell to fourth place last year. This year, to date, it is ranked 12 with just $1 billion in IPOs.
Update: We reached out to Alibaba for comment and, unsurprisingly, VP of International Corporate Affairs John Spelich has denied the rumor.
We have no timetable for an IPO. We have not hired bankers for an IPO. So how can we have made a decision on where to place a non-existent IPO?
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