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Yahoo, Softbank back Alibaba in HK IPO battle

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 27, 2013 at 11:30 am •  Published: September 27, 2013

HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba's biggest shareholders, Yahoo and Japan's Softbank Corp., on Friday backed the company's unusual management structure that Hong Kong's stock exchange was unwilling to accommodate, forcing it to look to the U.S. for a potentially mammoth IPO.

The show of support came a day after a senior Alibaba Group executive sharply criticized the southern Chinese city's stock exchange for being too inflexible in discussions about a share sale that had been expected to raise up to $15 billion.

The company broke off talks for a Hong Kong initial public offering because the stock market wasn't willing to make an exception to its listing rules. Instead, it's looking to New York for an initial public offering that analysts estimate could value the company at more than $100 billion.

That would dwarf the tech world's other hotly anticipated share offering by Twitter, which is estimated to have a market value of $10 billion.

In a column posted late Thursday on Alibaba's blog, Vice Chairman Joe Tsai said "Hong Kong must consider what is needed in order to adapt to future trends and changes."

Tsai said the company had ended its discussions for a potential listing. It's the first public acknowledgement that it has dropped its plans for an IPO in Hong Kong, which Tsai said was the company's "first choice" because most of its business is in China.

Alibaba's two biggest shareholders, Yahoo and Japan's Softbank, issued statements backing Alibaba.

"In a fast-moving technology market, it's critical that a company's leadership can continue to preserve its culture and set its strategic course for the future," said Jacqueline Reses, chief development officer at Yahoo, which owns a 23 percent stake. She added that the U.S. Internet company believes Alibaba's system reflects "the desire to govern the company for long-term success while also balancing the rights of shareholders."

Masayoshi Son, founder of Softbank Corp., which owns 35 percent, said he was "supportive" of the company's structure.

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