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China's Alibaba Geared Up for U.S. IPO

By Kelvin Chan

HONG KONG -- Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group said Sunday that it will go public on a U.S. stock exchange in a move analysts say might raise up to $15 billion in the year's biggest initial public offering.

(See more of TheStreet's coverage of the Alibaba IPO here: "Bull vs. Bear on the Upcoming Alibaba IPO.")

The announcement ended months of speculation over where the company would list its shares, after talks for a Hong Kong stock sale fell apart last year.

Alibaba is one of the world's biggest Internet companies and says more than $150 billion worth of merchandise changes hands on its online platforms each year, more than Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY) combined.

The company began as a service to link Chinese suppliers with retailers abroad and has branched out into retail e-commerce. It is little known abroad but has launched two consumer-oriented services in the United States.

"Alibaba Group has decided to commence the process of an initial public offering in the United States," the company said in a statement. "This will make us a more global company and enhance the company's transparency, as well as allow the company to continue to pursue our long-term vision and ideals."

It gave no details of the timing or size of the initial public offering or on which exchange it would take place.

Analysts have estimated that an Alibaba IPO could raise up to $15 billion and value the company at more than $100 billion.

Alibaba, based in Hangzhou, had previously abandoned plans for an IPO in Hong Kong because the semiautonomous Chinese financial center's stock exchange refused to change its rules to accommodate the company's unusual management structure.

The company failed to persuade the Hong Kong exchange to grant it an exception from listing rules so that it could maintain a "partnership" structure that lets top executives, who own 10% of the company, retain control of the board.

The company hinted that the door has not completely shut on listing its stock in Hong Kong.

"Should circumstances permit in the future, we will be constructive toward extending our public status in the China capital market in order to share our growth with the people of China," the statement said.

Alibaba is one of a number of Chinese Internet heavyweights planning to cash in with IPOs amid rapid growth. The announcement comes two days after the Weibo microblog unit of Chinese Internet company Sina's  (SINA)  filed plans for a potential U.S. IPO. Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, indicates it plans to raise $500 million. Another Chinese online retailing giant, JD.com, filed in January for a U.S. stock listing.

Alibaba Group doesn't report its finances. But Yahoo, (YHOO) which owns a 24% stake in the company, said Alibaba's revenue for the quarter ending in September rose 51% from a year earlier to $1.8 billion.

That was down from 61% growth over a year earlier in the previous quarter and 71% in the first quarter of 2013.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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