Alibaba postpones up to $15 billion Hong Kong listing amid protests: sources
HONG KONG/NEW YORK (Reuters) - China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has delayed its up to $15 billion listing in Hong Kong amid growing political unrest in the Asian financial hub, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listing plans are being closely watched by the financial community for indications on the business environment in the Chinese-controlled territory and provides a window into Beijing’s reading of the situation.
While no new timetable has been formally set, Alibaba could potentially launch the deal as early as October, still seeking to raise $10 billion-$15 billion, depending on whether political tensions had eased and market conditions became more favorauble, one of the people said.
The decision to postpone the deal, initially set to launch in late August, was taken at a board meeting before Alibaba’s earnings release last week, the second person said.
The delay was due to the lack of financial and political stability in Hong Kong, the people added, following more than 11 weeks of frequently violent pro-democracy demonstrations which have plunged the city into turmoil.
Police have fired over 1,000 rounds of tear gas while more than 700 people have been arrested, followed by an unprecedented airport shutdown last week.
Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index fell to seven-month lows last week.
“It would be very unwise to launch the deal now or anytime soon,” the first person said. “It would certainly annoy Beijing by offering Hong Kong such a big gift given what’s going on in the city,”
the source added.
Preparations for Alibaba’s listing, potentially the world’s biggest equity deal this year and the largest follow-on share sale in seven years, have been underway for some time.
Earlier this year, Altaba, the Yahoo offshoot holding the company’s stake in Alibaba, announced plans to sell up to its entire 11% stake - an event Alibaba would want to see completed ahead of its Hong Kong float to stabilise its U.S. trading volumes before investors need to adjust to the two prices that would be available following a Hong Kong listing.
The Altaba sale has been completed, the second person said.
Both people declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to media. Altaba did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.
Alibaba declined to comment on its Hong Kong deal plans.