Alibaba IPO prices at top of range, raising $21.8 billion

Thu Sep 18, 2014 7:29pm EDT
 
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By Liana B. Baker, Jessica Toonkel and Deepa Seetharaman

(Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding (BABA.N: Quote) priced its initial public offering at $68 a share, the top end of the expected range, raising $21.8 billion on Thursday, in the latest sign of strong investor appetite for the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut.

At that price, the IPO, one of the largest-ever, would give Alibaba a market valuation of $167.6 billion, surpassing American corporate icons from Walt Disney Co (DIS.N: Quote) to Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote). The offering also vaults it atop U.S. e-commerce rivals like Amazon (AMZN.O: Quote) and eBay (EBAY.O: Quote) and gives it more financial firepower to expand in the United States and other markets.

“I’d put them (Alibaba) in a class of Facebook and Google with the scale they have, growth prospects and profitability," said Scot Wingo, CEO of e-commerce software provider ChannelAdvisor. "There’s a scarcity value there.”

An Ipsos poll conducted for Thomson Reuters found that 88 percent of Americans had never heard of the Chinese e-commerce company, which is responsible for 80 percent of online sales in the world's second largest economy and works with a number of businesses there including consumer online marketplace Taobao and payment service Alipay.

But that didn't sap enthusiasm among multiple large U.S. institutions, including Blackrock (BLK.N: Quote), which put in orders for allocations of at least $1 billion in shares, according to the sources.

Between 35 and 40 institutions placed orders for $1 billion or more shares each, investors briefed on the matter said.

Keen to buy into China's rapid growth and evolving Internet sector, investors have been clamoring to get shares since top executives at Alibaba, including Ma, kicked off the road show last week.

“It was one of the more impressive IPO presentations,” said Jerry Jordan, manager of the $48 million Jordan Opportunity Fund JORDX.O. “I didn’t realize just quite how successful they are."   Continued...

 
Alibaba founder Jack Ma gives a thumbs-up as he arrives to speak to investors at an initial public offering roadshow in Singapore September 16, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su