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Why Jack Ma May Choose New York for Alibaba IPO

Stocks in this article: YHOO FB NYX

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Everyone who follows the Internet has been expecting an Alibaba IPO this year.

It would be one of the biggest Internet IPOs ever and could possibly exceed Facebook's (FB) public offering last year. Some observers expect Alibaba's value to top $100 billion once shares of the Chinese e-commerce company start trading.

Before yesterday, most people had been expecting Alibaba to list in Hong Kong. After all, Alibaba founder Jack Ma listed business-to-business portal Alibaba.com on Hong Kong's stock exchange back in 2007. (He took it private last year in preparation for a future Alibaba Group IPO.)

Ma is also reported to be close friends with the CEO of the Hong Kong Exchange. The two men are believed to have been in deep discussions over the past few months.

It's also been rumored that the Chinese government itself has been trying to pressure Ma to list in Hong Kong. Beijing sees Alibaba as having the potential to be one of the most successful Internet companies in the world for years to come.

That would bring prestige to China. Having Alibaba list in Hong Kong would also demonstrate that the biggest companies in the world can stay listed in Hong Kong and continue to grow.

But overnight, there came several reports from the Chinese media that Jack Ma had decided he was more interested in listing his company in New York rather than Hong Kong.

Representatives from the New York Stock Exchange, a unit of NYSE Euronext (NYX), have been lobbying Ma just as hard as those from the Hong Kong Exchange. But the New York Stock Exchange managed to get a big foot in the door with Ma this week.

It's all about control.

Ma owns 7% of Alibaba. That's surprisingly low for a founder of a big successful Internet company. Jeff Bezos, for example, still owns a bit less than 20% of Amazon (AMZN), which he founded in 1994. Mark Zuckerberg owns 30% of Facebook.

Ma must be bothered by this, although you can't fault him for doing what he needed to do in founding Alibaba in 1999 and growing the company by taking outside capital from powerful foreign partners.

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