Alibaba's HiChina unit to seek US listing

Updated: 2011-09-27 10:17

By Tang Zhihao (China Daily)

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Alibaba's HiChina unit to seek US listing

A receptionist answers the phone at Alibaba's head office in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Alibaba is set to spin off the HiChina Unit through an IPO in the United States. [Photo/Bloomberg]

'Opportune time' to benefit from investors' outlook for e-commerce

SHANGHAI - Hong Kong-listed Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China's largest e-commerce company, said on Spet 26 that its majority-owned subsidiary HiChina is seeking a separate listing in the United States, which would lead to a reduction of Alibaba's holding in HiChina.

In a statement, Alibaba said that HiChina, an Internet infrastructure service provider offering domain name, hosting and cloud-based services in China, had submitted the listing plan for review by the relevant authorities.

It also said that it has notified the stock exchange in Hong Kong of its plan.

Alibaba did not provide further details on the proposed transaction.

Alibaba acquired an 85 percent stake in HiChina for 540 million yuan ($84.39 million) in 2009. The first payment of 435 million yuan was made in December 2009, with the remaining portion to be paid within the following three years.

The acquisition was said to be the largest investment made by Alibaba.

Alibaba representative Gu Jianbing said the IPO plan for HiChina was formed at the time of the Alibaba acquisition.

A source familiar with the situation was quoted by Dow Jones as saying that HiChina could be valued at more than $500 million.

Hu Yanping, general manager of the Beijing-based research company Data Center of China Internet, said this is the most opportune time for HiChina to seek a listing because of investors' expectations about the e-commerce business.

It is also a way for Alibaba to make a profit through capital investment.

Meanwhile, he said the cooperation between the two companies has provided a good platform for HiChina to boost its business trading volume and strengthen its customer base.

Analysts also pointed out that the listing would provide capital for HiChina's development in cloud-based services so as to better support Alibaba's development in the online trading sector.

"Many companies are paying great attention to cloud-based services, which require tremendous capital investment. This move might help HiChina raise external funds so as to ease the financial pressure and better support its research and development," said Zhang Zhouping, assistant researcher at the China e-Business Research Center.

However, some analysts also linked the move to the uneasy relationship between Alibaba and Yahoo! Inc.

Yahoo! owns 39 percent of Alibaba, and the latter has long been committed to buying back the shares. All buyback plans were rebuffed by Yahoo! in the past few years.

Analysts said that the sale of HiChina shares might provide Alibaba with financial support to seek ways to solve the business disagreement.

Ma Rongsong, an analyst from consulting firm Analysys International, said the stock listing will help Alibaba get funds from the capital market and might support its share repurchase plan in the future.

Gu from Alibaba declined to comment on this opinion.

Chen Limin contributed to this story.