Alibaba picks NYSE to host IPO

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Alibaba Reuters. Employees stand on a logo of Alibaba (China) Technology Co. Ltd during a media tour organised by government officials at its headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in this file picture.

New York - Alibaba Group plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, cementing the 222-year-old market’s newfound strength in technology companies.

The decision is a blow to the Nasdaq Stock Market which was competing to become the venue for what could be the largest-ever IPO in the US Alibaba named the exchange in a filing yesterday, saying it plans to use the ticker ``BABA.''

For Alibaba, picking Intercontinental Exchange’s NYSE would also make it a standout on the Big Board as the third-largest technology company listed there.

With an estimated value of about $168 billion, according to a survey of analysts in April, Alibaba would rank behind only International Business Machines and Oracle among technology companies listed on the NYSE, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The momentum shifts back and forth between the two exchanges as far as IPO wins, and now it’s shifted back to the NYSE,” Richard Repetto, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP in New York, said in a phone interview.

The ticker BABA -- in addition to reflecting the company’s name -- repeats the Chinese word for the number eight, “ba.”

Chinese consider the number to be lucky because “ba” sounds like the word for prosperity, “fa.”

Alibaba’s management see the reference to “eight” as auspicious, and would also prefer having the company’s shares begin trading on August 8, after the IPO is priced the night before, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

A weak market or other factors that come up during the IPO preparations could slow the deal and push it back until September, the people said.

 

Nasdaq’s Reputation

 

Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba, which filed for the IPO in May, is looking to sell about a 12 percent stake, people familiar with the matter have said.

That could have it raising as much as $20 billion.

The decision highlights Nasdaq OMX Group’s struggles to attract the largest technology debuts.

NYSE hosted 22 of the 37 US technology and Internet IPOs in 2013, headlined by Twitter’s offering, and has already won Candy Crush-maker King Digital Entertainment’s listing this year.

“We are pleased to welcome Alibaba Group to the New York Stock Exchange where they will join our network of the world’s best companies and leading brands,” NYSE’s Eric Ryan said after Alibaba’s choice was made public.

“Alibaba is a terrific company and we wish them well as they pursue their initial public offering,” Nasdaq’s Will Briganti said.

Nasdaq built its reputation in the 1980s and 1990s as the home of technology companies such as Microsoft and Intel.

Since 2012, it’s battled negative perceptions after Facebook’s botched IPO led to investor confusion, trading delays and millions of dollars of losses for brokerage firms.

NYSE and Nasdaq are currently the only two US exchanges that list companies.

 

Swinging Pendulum

 

“Alibaba is probably going to be a big offering, so they want somebody that they think can control it better and avoid the headache Facebook had,” Frank Ingarra, head trader at Greenwich, Connecticut-based NorthCoast Asset Management LLC, said by phone.

While Nasdaq, which is the listing venue for Google, Apple, and Alibaba shareholder Yahoo!, was once the obvious choice for an Internet upstart, NYSE has been chipping away at its lead.

Out of the 10 technology and Internet IPOs that priced during the first quarter in the US, seven chose to list on the NYSE, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Besides the reputational gain from winning Alibaba, money is at stake, too, as NYSE and Nasdaq collect fees from their listed companies.

A high-profile win such as Alibaba could help lure other companies to a venue.

From 2001 through 2011, Nasdaq won 122 technology and Internet IPOs and NYSE scored 42, data compiled by Bloomberg show. LinkedIn, Pandora Media and Yelp have all selected the NYSE for IPOs since.

From the start of 2012 through March 31 of this year, NYSE won 45 technology listings that raised $8.8 billion, while Nasdaq secured 35 that raised $20.7 billion, an amount padded by Facebook’s $16 billion debut. - Bloomberg News



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