NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Finally, Alibaba dropped its initial public offering filing late Tuesday. People have been waiting for this for weeks. They are excited and already mulling over what it contains.
I've gone through it and here's what I think matters, and what doesn't.
Alibaba is big. Well, duh. Of course, we knew this before but it's another thing to see the fine print. In the whole of 2013, we now know that Alibaba did $7.893 billion in revenue. For comparison's sake, Facebook (FB) did $7.872 billion in all of 2013. We also know that Alibaba's fourth-quarter revenue were bigger than Facebook's. Facebook currently has a $150 billion market cap, so it doesn't seem so fanciful to think Alibaba will receive a similar valuation.
Its gross merchandise volume (GMV) and profits are bigger than Amazon and eBay combined. This means that the volume of stuff that passes through its empire is bigger than that of Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY). Although Amazon and eBay both report higher revenue than Alibaba, the Chinese company is able to capture a much greater profit from their revenues than those other firms. Nearly half of all of Alibaba's revenue last year turned to profits.
It has a growing mobile business. One of the concerns prior to the IPO filing about Alibaba was that it faced increased competition at home from Tencent with its very popular WeChat messaging application. The idea was that maybe Alibaba was going to remain stuck in a PC e-commerce world that was moving to a mobile version. Alibaba went out of its way to show its mobile business was doing just fine, thank you, with 136 million mobile monthly active users -- not too far off from Twitter (TWTR).
It's an international play. Most Americans only think of Alibaba as a play on the Chinese consumer. Yet, the company demonstrated that 9% of its revenue in the last nine months of 2013 were from outside of China. Alibaba clearly has ambitions to grow this revenue further in the years ahead.
SoftBank made one heck of an investment. The filing reveals that SoftBank (SFTBY) -- mostly 10 years ago -- invested (over three different rounds) a grand total of $100 million in Alibaba. It now owns 34.4% of the company worth at least $150 billion. That's a 516-bagger of an investment. Phenomenal. The filing doesn't mention that Goldman Sachs (GS) also bought a big stake at the same time that SoftBank first put money in, but quickly exited a few years later.
What doesn't matter:
Risk factors. The document is chock-a-block with risk factors. Some have to do with government regulation. Some have to do with the structure of Alibaba's variable interest entity, or VIE. The bottom line is these risk factors are common to all Chinese companies. They are drawn up by lawyers to cover everything under the sun.
While some are writing long posts about the implications of these risk factors to how Alibaba will be valued, I would say there's no grand smoking gun here, just a lot of boilerplate.
That Alibaba doesn't break out Tmall vs. Taobao revenue. Some hoped the company would do that. Instead it refers to China commerce and lops them together. It would have been nice to see something more granular but would you do any different if you were in their shoes? Keeping it at a higher level is good for the company. Does it mean you shouldn't invest? No.
Where does this end?
I think Alibaba goes public in August or September. I think by the time it goes public it will get an initial valuation of $165 billion as its first-quarter and maybe even second-quarter numbers get leaked during the roadshow. It probably should go up further upon trading.
I don't see it as a big deal that has to weigh on the market. This is one company that is one of the top five Internet properties in the world. These kinds of tech companies go public once every decade or so, especially when you take into account their continued growth opportunities in China, internationally and through their investments beyond that.
At the time of publication, the author was short Twitter.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.
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