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China Focus: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba files for IPO

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HANGZHOU, May 7 (Xinhua) -- China's e-commerce giant Alibaba has filed an initial public offering (IPO) document to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with plans to raise 1 billion U.S. dollars, according to well-informed sources on Wednesday.

Analysts in China said the 1 billion U.S. dollars is only a placeholder for the funds it wants to raise. The actual amount could be between 15 billion to 20 billion U.S. dollars.

It is expected to be the biggest IPO in the tech sector since Facebook's 16-billion-U.S.-dollar offering in 2012.

It will also challenge Visa's 19.7-billion-U.S.-dollar IPO in 2008 to be the largest offering in U.S. history.

Alibaba's largest shareholders are Japanese telecoms and media company Softbank Corp with 34.4 percent, Internet services company Yahoo Inc with 22.6 percent, Jack Ma with 8.9 percent and Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai with a 3.6 percent stake, according to a document published on SEC website.

It is unknown whether Alibaba will be listed in the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.

Announcing this in an internal email to employees, founder and chairman of Alibaba Jack Ma said, "Becoming a listed company has never been our goal. It is a tactic and means to realize our mission."

Noting that being listed in the United States will expose Alibaba to challenges in the global financial market, Ma said, "Not all companies have the opportunities to face such global challenges. We are honored to be one of them."

The 15-year-old Alibaba, which is part-eBay and part-Amazon, is the world's largest online and mobile commerce company. It had a gross merchandise volume of 248 billion U.S. dollars in 2013 on its three major trading platforms.

It operates Taobao Marketplace, China's largest online shopping destination, Tmall, the country's largest third-party platform for brands and retailers and Juhuasuan, the nation's most popular group buying marketplace.

Besides the three retail marketplaces, it also operates Alibaba.com, China's largest global online wholesale marketplace in 2013 by revenues and AliExpress, its global consumer marketplace. It also provides cloud computing services.

Alipay, Alibaba's Paypal-like division, which is not part of the IPO, is the world's largest payment processor with a payment volume of 519 billion U.S. dollars in 2013.

At the end of 2013, Alibaba said it had 231 million active monthly buyers, up 44 percent from a year earlier. For the nine months ending Dec. 31, Alibaba generated a net income of 2.9 billion U.S. dollars on revenues of 6.5 billion U.S. dollars, according to the document.

Alibaba, keen to expand out of its core online retail business, has increased its reach to include shopping malls, home appliances, mapping services, media and financial services through a series of acquisitions in the past year.

Hong Kong was once the top choice for Alibaba's IPO but the plan was aborted in part because of Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission's opposition to Alibaba's unique corporate structure.

Under Alibaba's statutes, the company's partners are able to nominate and control the board, which is a challenge to the one share - one vote standard applied in Hong Kong.

On March 16, Alibaba announced it planned to launch its IPO in the U.S.

Alibaba's IPO will create a number of millionaires as many of its staff have shares.

"There will be a special department to help you deal with your stake," said Ma in the email.

"I remind you to deal properly with your fortune, take care of your family and donate to society at the same time," he said.

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