Boon for Hong Kong as Alibaba plans $15b listing in late Nov

Public offering to take place at a pivotal moment as unrest plagues Hong Kong

Reuters November 08, 2019
Public offering to take place at a pivotal moment as unrest plagues Hong Kong. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING: Chinese retail titan Alibaba plans to list in Hong Kong in the final week of November, two people with direct knowledge said, aiming to raise up to $15 billion in a deal that signals a vote of confidence in the Asian financial hub.

The public offering by the e-commerce specialist, whose primary listing is in the United States, would take place at a pivotal moment for Hong Kong's future as the city has been wracked by months of anti-government protests.

It also comes at a time when there has been a thaw in relations between China and the United States, which have been locked in a trade war that has buffeted financial markets.

Alibaba's bookbuilding and listing is due to take place in the week beginning November 25, said the sources, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The company is first due to seek approval from Hong Kong's listing committee next week on Thursday, two separate sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

An Alibaba spokesman declined to comment on the timing of the share offering.

The transaction would be the world's biggest-ever cross-border secondary listing, according to Dealogic data. Alibaba currently holds the crown for the world's biggest initial public offering for its $25 billion 2014 float in New York.

Alibaba has not said what it plans to do with the proceeds of the secondary listing, in which it aims to raise between $10 billion and $15 billion.

However, the company is looking to expand its Chinese customer base beyond its core market in big cities to less developed areas to combat slowing retail sales growth.

It also faces rising competition from nimbler rivals such as Pinduoduo which has outsmarted the retail juggernaut in smaller cities with deep discounts and group-buying deals.

Alibaba and Aramco

The Hong Kong listing presages a year-end rush for global equity markets, with the Saudi government planning to sell 2% of oil giant Aramco in a deal that could raise up to $30 billion and topple Alibaba's own IPO record.

If both deals succeed, they could provide a shot in the arm for moribund capital markets, where investors have proved increasingly sceptical of the valuations sought by much-hyped tech start-ups such as ride-hailing giant Uber, which has fallen by about a third since its float in May.

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