Speaking to the Wall Street Journal in his first interview since replacing Aliababa’s iconic founder Jack Ma at the helm of the company in May, Lu said that the recent $586 million outlay in Sina Weibo and $294 million investment in mapping firm Autonavi will not be isolated deals since the company is pursuing more alliances to beef up its presence.
In particular, Lu says that Alibaba is focusing on its mobile offering as it responds to the growth of tablets and phones in China, which is the world’s largest smartphone market. Lu wants Alibaba’s service – and in particular its two biggest businesses: virtual ‘mall’ for brands Tmall and eBay-like Taobao marketplace — to make better use of customer data to provide a more unique and tailored user experience.
Alibaba has been strongly tipped to float on the Hong Kong stock exchange before the end of the year in a move that could value the firm at $70 billion.
Lu told the Journal that the company is “ready” to list and “can do an IPO any time”. Though he did not provide concrete details, he called New York and Hong Kong “suitable” locations that the firm could pick, whilst highlighting that it has prior knowledge and experience of Hong Kong having listed its B2B Alibaba.com business there.
Though Lu is CEO, he insists that Ma — who remains Alibaba’s Chairman — will be the one to hit the button when the bell finally rings on the much-anticipated IPO.
Alibaba reorganized itself into 25 business units at the beginning of the year and, with Ma stepping down claiming it is time for younger minds at the top, the company appears to be moving through the gears towards an IPO that could bring much cheer to Hong Kong’s financial industry.
Economic downturn has affected the number of public listings in Hong Kong. The country was ranked first on IPO deals between 2009 and 2011, but it fell to fourth place last year. This year, to date, it is ranked twelfth with just $1 billion in deals.
In a sign of its formidable presence and success, Alibaba’s gross merchant value overtook that of eBay and Amazon combined in Q4 2012.
Headline image via PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images