Chinese Tech Giant Alibaba Plans U.S. IPO

The largest tech IPO of the year will come from a company that many Americans have never heard of. Alibaba -- a Chinese e-commerce behemoth with revenue larger than Amazon and EBay combined -- has decided to go public in the U.S. after months of speculation that it would list in Hong Kong. The company could raise up to $15 billion at an estimated valuation of up to $200 billion.

"We expect it to be the largest tech IPO ever, the largest IPO of the year, the largest Chinese IPO of the year," said Max Wolff, chief economist and strategist at Citizen VC. "It's a big number, probably a record-breaker by any metric."

Alibaba's initial public offering plans are part of a wave of Chinese companies going public in the U.S. this year. Twitter-like platform Weibo is set to begin trading on the NASDAQ on Thursday and Alibaba rival JD.com filed for a $1.5-billion listing in January.

The prospect of a blockbuster IPO for Alibaba is already igniting the kind of frenzied investor interest that swirled around Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013.

Alibaba is often compared to EBay and PayPal, but its interests are much wider. They include banking, maps, cloud computing, online music service, and TV and film production. The company also has a stake in Weibo, the microblogging platform that is going public in the U.S. this week.

Alibaba was founded in 1999 by a group of 18 people, led by Jack Ma, a former English teacher from Hangzhou, a city near Shanghai. Yahoo was an early investor and still owns about a quarter of the company; Japan's SoftBank has a substantial 37% share.

When Yahoo reported its quarterly earnings Tuesday, it revealed that revenue at Alibaba surged 66%, to $3.06 billion, in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier. Its...

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