Smooth debut for Alibaba after biggest U.S. IPO ever

Alibaba Group came out with a monster roar Friday as its shares began trading at $92.70, up more than 36% from its IPO price of $68. The rest of the day was relatively stable for the new stock, analysts said, falling a nickel below $90 for only a moment and peaking at nearly $100.

That surge on the New York Stock Exchange instantly raised the company's total market value from $168 billion to more than $220 billion. Alibaba had raised $21.8 billion in its hotly anticipated IPO, the largest in U.S. history.


The $68 IPO price, set Thursday, cemented Alibaba at that time as at least the second-largest initial public offering in history, just behind Agricultural Bank of China's $21.9-billion IPO from 2010 and, in the U.S., beating Visa's $19.7-billion performance in 2008.

The talk of investors since the company filed to go public in May, Alibaba's IPO was the hottest since Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013. Demand was high: During its two-week international road show, institutional investors rushed to place orders for shares, prompting Alibaba to raise its price range.

Alibaba had initially set a range of $60 to $66 a share. It sold 320.1 million American depositary shares.

Alibaba's IPO dwarfed that of Facebook Inc.'s. When the world's largest social network went public two years ago it raised $16 billion, giving it a market value of $104 billion. Facebook was valued at nearly $200 billion entering Friday.

The operator of several shopping websites that link buyers and sellers, Alibaba is often compared with Ebay, but its interests are much wider. They include banking, maps, cloud computing, an online music service, and TV and film production.

It operates Taobao, Alibaba's biggest website and China's largest consumer-to-consumer online shopping platform, and Tmall, China's largest third-party platform for brands and retailers. The company also has a stake in the microblogging platform Weibo, which itself went public in the U.S. this year.

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 Inc. was an early investor and owns slightly less than a quarter of the company.

Although it is relatively unknown in the U.S., Alibaba hopes to become a household name soon. During the company's IPO road show, Ma hinted that the company would ramp up its business in the U.S. after the IPO.

Unlike many tech companies that go public with little to no profit, Alibaba was already an uber-successful juggernaut by financial standards.

Last month, the Hangzhou company reported a surge in mobile growth and big gains in the quarter that ended June 30.

The company -- which handles more sales than Inc. and EBay Inc. combined -- said profit nearly tripled to $2 billion. Revenue rose 46% to $2.54 billion.

Active online buyers increased to 279 million, Alibaba said, 51% higher than in the year-earlier quarter and a 9% gain from the January-through-March quarter.

Alibaba is particularly strong in mobile. The company revealed that 32.8% of its gross merchandise volume was transacted via mobile devices, up from just 12% a year earlier. And it more than doubled its mobile revenue from the previous quarter.

The number of mobile users has also soared: Alibaba said it had 188 million mobile monthly active users in June, up from 163 million in March.


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