China-based tech firm Alibaba Group recorded fourth-quarter revenues of $3.06 billion, a year-over-year rise of 66%, according to a presentation this week from shareholder Yahoo. The sharp sales growth comes as Alibaba prepares for an initial public offering this year that will likely be the largest since Facebook’s 2012 market debut. Analysts believe Alibaba’s IPO will raise at least $15 billion.
Alibaba has unique ties to several industries and services, including banking, cloud computing, online music, microblogging and film production. The company is most well-known, though, for its multiple websites that allow merchants to sell items – including promotional products – directly to consumers worldwide. The company, founded in 1999 by Counselor Power 50 member Jack Ma, powers 80% of all Chinese online consumer shopping.
For months, the company strongly considered publicly listing in Hong Kong, before recently deciding an offering on a New York-based exchange would be more beneficial. Ma and Alibaba’s top executives have wanted to retain as much control as possible, specifically the right to nominate most board members, despite holding a minority stake. The Hong Kong Exchange would not allow that control, but exchanges in the U.S. are more accommodative, especially as they fight for technology company IPOs. Both the NYSE and NASDAQ also tend to offer higher valuations and better infrastructure for trading.
Analysts and traders are anxiously awaiting the Chinese company’s public filing, with CNBC’s Jim Cramer suggesting portfolio managers gear up to buy as many Alibaba shares as possible. “I want to own Alibaba,” Cramer said. “If I was a growth manager, I would sell every single stock and buy Alibaba. I cannot believe that acceleration. Who accelerates? And this is China we're talking about.”
While no firm IPO date has been announced, Alibaba is expected to file preliminary paperwork next week. According to reports out of China, Alibaba has hired Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG as chief underwriters.