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Alibaba.com shareholders OK $2.5 billion privatization bid

Alibaba Group Holding, the Chinese e-commerce giant that looks a bit like a mash-up of EBay, PayPal and Amazon, plans to pay $2.5 billion to snatch back Yahoo Inc.’s 27% stake in Alibaba.com.

Minority shareholders approved a plan Friday to offer 13.50 Hong Kong dollars, or about $1.74 a share, to take the online business-to-business trading portal private. That’s how much it was priced at when it went public in 2007.

Alibaba.com, which is listed in Hong Kong, suspended shares from trading Friday – a day after the stock closed at HK $13.42. The site has said it has nearly 80 million users – importers, exporters, manufacturers and other small businesses – around the world.

Though Alibaba.com’s revenue ticked up 3.7% in the first quarter to 1.6 billion Chinese renminbi, its profit slumped 25% to RMB$339.2 million, or $53.8 million.

The company said in its outlook that it is “dedicated to carrying out a complete transformation and upgrade of its business model,” focusing on better user experience rather than “aggressive membership acquisition.”

If regulators approve the buyback deal, Alibaba.com would go private on June 19 as an Alibaba Group subsidiary, “free from the pressures that come from having a publicly listed company,” Chief Executive Jack Ma said earlier this year.

Alibaba Group is based in Hangzhou, China, and operates businesses such as EBay-esque Taobao.com, Alibaba Cloud Computing and online payment system Alipay separately from Alibaba.com.

Earlier this week, the company said it would pay at least $7.1 billion for up to half of Yahoo’s 40% stake in Alibaba Group – a move that Ma has hinted is part of a strategy to consolidate the various business segments before packaging them all in a single IPO.

If that unified entity goes public before December 2015, Alibaba Group will be cleared to buy back an additional 10% of Yahoo’s stake, according to the companies’ agreement.

There’s also the not-so-small matter of Yahoo’s recent troubles, which include Chief Executive Scott Thompson stepping down over a resume discrepancy and a proxy fight from activist investor Daniel Loeb.


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