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Alibaba said to target global IPO roadshow in September

2014-08-14 08:09 China Daily Web Editor: Qin Dexing

Managers are set to travel across three continents to hold 100 meetings with potential investors

Two weeks, three continents and 100 meetings. That-and company founder Jack Ma celebrating his 50th birthday on the road-is what it will take for Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to pull off the largest initial public offering in US history.

The Chinese e-commerce company is weighing a plan to start marketing shares to investors on Sept 3, with management traveling across Asia, Europe and the United States before the IPO mid-month, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The schedule, put forth by banks managing the IPO, would have meetings begin in Hong Kong and Singapore before executives travel to London and eventually host their first US event in New York on Sept 8, the people said, asking not to be identified. The timeline has Alibaba targeting a Sept 16 trading debut, the people said.

The investor meetings-called a roadshow-will give Alibaba the opportunity to answer questions from the world's biggest fund managers and build demand for its shares. Expected to raise as much as $20 billion, the IPO has the potential to be the largest in the US. The company's official price range is expected to be revealed on Sept 2.

For trading to start on Sept 16, Alibaba would have to set its final price the day before, a Monday. It is uncommon for companies in the US to price IPOs on a Monday, in case news over the weekend has negatively affected market sentiment in the final day of the deal. The plan could change, although Alibaba wants to avoid debuting near the holiday of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, the following week, one of the people said.

With six financial advisers already managing the sale, Alibaba plans to name additional banks that will have smaller roles in the deal, according to people familiar with the matter. The company also will update investors with earnings from the quarter through June, those people said.

Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc are the most senior banks on the IPO. Alibaba may end up using more than 20 financial advisers in all, one person said.

Shares of Japanese wireless carrier SoftBank Corp, Alibaba's largest shareholder, rose 2.4 percent at the close in Tokyo on Wednesday. Florence Shih, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Alibaba, declined to comment.

At $20 billion, Alibaba's sale would edge past Visa Inc's $19.65 billion IPO in 2008 as the largest in US history.

Alibaba plans to divide executives into two separate teams, which will lead about 100 meetings in total, according to the people. The teams will mostly be together for the larger group meetings, while separating to meet with individual investors, they said.

In the US, Alibaba will visit with investors in Boston, Massachusetts; the Mid-Atlantic region; Kansas City, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; Chicago; Los Angeles; and San Francisco.

On Sept 10, when Ma celebrates his birthday, investor meetings will be held in New York, the people said.

Alibaba is waiting until next month to begin marketing shares as it seeks regulatory approval of its prospectus, a person with knowledge of the matter said last month. The company, which had initially targeted an early August trading debut, is holding off to avoid rushing the deal as it continues discussions with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Chinese e-commerce operator may set its IPO value at $154 billion, or 22 percent below analyst valuations, according to average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg last month. The same analysts gave Alibaba an average post-listing valuation of $198 billion, the survey shows.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is selling its small-business lending arm to the company that already controls payments affiliate Alipay, separating itself from the last of its major financial units ahead of an initial public offering expected next month.

The e-commerce giant will sell the loan business to Small and Micro Financial Services Co for $518 million in cash and annual fees for seven years, it said in a regulatory filing in the United States on Wednesday.

Small and Micro Financial Services already owns Alipay, which is used by shoppers on Alibaba's websites. The agreement also lifts a $6 billion cap, under certain conditions, on funds that Alibaba could receive if Alipay or its parent company goes public, the filing showed.

The sale means the financial-services assets will be owned by Chinese nationals instead of the global investors who may buy shares in the IPO. It also takes financial and regulatory risk relating to the operations off of Alibaba's balance sheet, while increasing the pool of profits the company can generate from them, the filing showed.

Alibaba will now receive 37.5 percent of pretax income from Small and Micro Financial, compared with 49.9 percent it was receiving from just Alipay before, according to the filing. Alibaba could acquire as much as a 33 percent stake in Small and Micro Financial Services if given Chinese regulatory approval, the filing showed.

More than 78 percent of purchases made on Alibaba's platforms last year were processed through Alipay, according to the prospectus. The lending unit provides financing for small and medium-sized businesses that sell products on Alibaba's marketplaces. Other units within the Small and Micro Financial group include consumer finance, asset management, financial-products distribution and insurance.

Alibaba sold Alipay to Small and Micro Financial, which is controlled by co-founder Jack Ma, in 2011 amid concerns it would not be permitted to conduct business in China while it had foreign ownership. That sale drew criticism from shareholder Yahoo Inc, which said it was not informed of the sale at the time.

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