Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), the Chinese e-commerce giant, is reportedly gunning for a secondary listing in Hong Kong by the final week of November. The tech titan hopes to raise $15 billion through an offering that will likely count as one of the largest equity market floats of the year.
According to inside sources quoted by Reuters, the company’s book building – the process by which underwriters attempt to determine the offering price of a float – and the concurrent listing is due to take place in the week that begins on 25th of November. Consequently, the tech titan is expected to submit a formal petition for a listing to the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. (HKG:0388) next week.
Although Alibaba has not elaborated what it plans to do with the proceeds of the offering, it is evident that the company is currently attempting to expand its clientele by establishing footholds in less developed Chinese regions in order to combat slowing revenue growth in core markets. Moreover, the behemoth is also facing stiff competition from more agile competitors such as Pinduoduo (NASDAQ:PDD) which has expanded its footprint in smaller cities by offering eye-gouging discounts and bundled deals.
Alibaba is currently listed on the New York Stock Exchange. According to analysts, the company is pursuing a shrewd strategy by unlocking an additional venue to raise capital in Hong Kong. Given the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade war and the attendant threats from the Trump administration to cut off the access of Chinese entities to Western capital markets, it is only prudent that Alibaba tries to hedge its bets by securing a safer alternate avenue for additional capital procurement purposes.
The offering, when completed, would be enumerated among the world’s largest cross-border secondary listings, according to Dealogic data. Alibaba currently holds the crown for the globe’s biggest initial public offering with a $25 billion float in New York in 2014. At the time, the e-commerce giant had initially hoped to float in Hong Kong, but the company’s governance structure clashed with the bourse’s listing rules. Specifically, a ban on dual-class capital structure – also known as Weighed Voting Rights (WVR) – proved to be a key hurdle for many Chinese companies in pursuing a domestic listing (read our related coverage here for additional context). Generally, tech companies prefer a WVR share structure as it allows the founders of those companies the opportunity to raise larger sums of money – by offering a greater proportion of common shares in public listings – while also retaining control of their companies with the help of skewed voting rights.
Since that time however, Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. has eased some of its restrictions to lure overseas-listed Chinese tech giants. Last year, the operator of the bourse opened its doors to secondary listings and pre-revenue companies – entities that are yet to turn profitable – that wished to list on the bourse. Firms can now also issue dual-class shares.
Investors are currently dealing with a year-end public market flotation bonanza, so to speak, with the listing of Alibaba and that of the Saudi oil company, Aramco, expected before the year end. It is interesting to note that Aramco is attempting to raise more than $30 billion through its IPO which is bound to break Alibaba’s to-date record of must funds raised through an equity market flotation.