Alibaba's IPO likely to set a new record

Updated: 2014-09-08 07:26

By Agencies(China Daily)

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Alibaba's IPO likely to set a new record

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the e-commerce company whose fortunes have surged along with China's economy, plans a US initial public offering that may also claim the global record.

Alibaba is seeking a valuation of up to $162.7 billion, more than 95 percent of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, as it enters the IPO's final stages, according to Bloomberg.

The IPO would be the largest ever in the United States, exceeding the $18 billion IPO of Visa Inc in 2008.

"We believe one thing: Today is difficult, tomorrow is more difficult, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful," said Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, in the company's presentation. "So we have to work very hard in order to survive the long journey."

Alibaba's IPO likely to set a new record

The price range is considered conservative by some analysts. However, Alibaba still can lift the final offering price above the current range.

At the high end of the proposed price range, Alibaba would be the third-most-valuable Internet company traded in the US, after Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. The offering could raise as much as $21.1 billion, according to a regulatory filing on Friday.

Alibaba disclosed on Friday that it would pay $15.8 million in legal fees to the Simpson Thacher law firm and other attorneys who advised the company on its IPO, six times what Facebook paid its counsel two years ago.

Alibaba made the disclosure in a prospectus on Friday filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Chinese company, whose sales are larger than and eBay combined, has a complex structure and has frequently revised its prospectus. That has all increased legal fees, analysts said.

Legal fees for Alibaba's IPO are the fourth-highest of the past 10 years, according to IPO Vital Signs.

The 2013 IPO of Empire State Realty trust was No 1, with a whopping $32.8 million in estimated legal fees, and the Kinder Morgan IPO in 2011 cost the pipeline company $17 million. The 2005 IPO of investment bank Lazard cost $16 million.

Facebook Inc's May 2012 IPO cost $2.6 million in legal fees.

In addition to Simpson, Alibaba's New York-based law firm, its Chinese counsel, Fangda Partners, and Cayman Islands advisers Maples and Calder, will share the attorneys' fees, according to the filing.

Alibaba has a governance arrangement that keeps insiders in control as well as an ownership structure that could face objections from the government, Bloomberg reported.

Alibaba and selling stockholders - including Yahoo! Inc, which owns more than 22 percent of the company, Chairman Jack Ma and Vice-Chairman Joe Tsai - plan to sell 320.1 million US depositary shares for $60 to $66 apiece, the filing shows. Those shares are equivalent to a 13 percent stake. The stock will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BABA.

Compared with other Internet companies, Alibaba is asking for a price that would make it expensive, according to Bloomberg. At the high end of the IPO range, the company would debut at about 17 times sales in the year through June, well over the multiple of 1.96 times at Amazon and 3.92 times at eBay. Chinese Internet companies Tencent Holdings Ltd and Baidu Inc trade at 13.53 times and 12.24 times.

The valuation itself won't stop investors who are drawn to Alibaba's potential, said Eric Jackson, founder of Ironfire Capital LLC.

"In this environment, people want a growth story. People are willing to pay up for growth, and Alibaba still has a lot of growth."

Alibaba, founded by former English schoolteacher Jack Ma, will decide on its final price after a globe-spanning roadshow that will kick off in New York on Monday, and is expected to take in cities from Hong Kong to San Francisco.