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Alibaba Underwriters Go From Alpha to Beta in IPO

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Alibaba's underwriters are unlikely to steal the show as the Chinese e-commerce giant moves towards what may be a record-sized IPO on either the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.

There was no lead underwriter disclosed in Alibaba's F-1 filing on Tuesday. Instead, underwriters were listed in alphabetical order, excluding Citigroup, which sources have said will take a slightly junior role.

>> Read More: Alibaba Files IPO with $1 Billion Placeholder and Discloses Partnership Structure

Alibaba, in its initial F-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, listed underwriters Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley in alphabetical order, with no single underwriter getting a so-called lead-left treatment on the prospectus.

The alphabetical treatment of five of the investment banks underwriting Alibaba's stock offering contrasts to recent blockbuster internet IPO's in the U.S. such as Facebook (FB) or Twitter (TWTR). The prospectuses of those offerings gave clear signal to who would be the lead underwriter.

In Facebook's case, Morgan Stanley got the coveted lead left status and ran the company's $16 billion IPO. Goldman Sachs won that mandate in Twitter's IPO. In the lead up to both of those offerings, it became a minor obsession of journalists to be first to report who would be named lead underwriter.

Alibaba's IPO, which is expected to surpass both Facebook and Twitter's IPO's in terms of size and valuation, doesn't disclose a single lead underwriter. Instead, the alphabetical treatment indicates an equal role among five of Alibaba's underwriters, with Citigroup playing a slightly smaller role, a source said.

"I can't think of anyone else who has done that," Reena Aggarwal, a professor of finance and business administration at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, said of the alphabetical listing of Alibaba's underwriters.


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Ultimately, some underwriters may emerge with a bigger role than others depending on their allocation. U.S.-based offers or sales will be conducted by Morgan Stanley, according to Alibaba's prospectus.

Rothschild, the legendary investment banking house, is listed as an independent financial advisor to Alibaba in its offering, however, the firm will not distribute shares in the offering.

No decisions have been made on the pricing and size of Alibaba's IPO, a source said. Given Alibaba's May filing, the company may only have a limited window of time to complete its road show before investors hit the beach.

Alibaba's six underwriters are also lenders to the company as part of a $8 billion credit facility. Credit Suisse also currently holds 40,000 series A convertible preferred shares in Alibaba, which can be converted to 2,162,162 ordinary shares when the company does complete its offering.

Alibaba's F-1 pegged its fair value at $50 a share as of April 2014. Given the company's disclosure of 2.32 billion total outstanding shares, that fair value implies a valuation of about $120 billion.

PrivCo, a valuation specialist, estimated Alibaba's value at $195 billion, indicating Yahoo!'s (YHOO - Get Report) over 22% stake in the company is worth about $47 billion. They also predicted NYSE would win the offering. Weibo (WB), a company that is now 30% owned by Alibaba, listed its ADR shares on Nasdaq in April.

>> Read More: Alibaba Files IPO With $1B Placeholder

>> Read More: The Biggest Risks In Alibaba IPO

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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