Saturday, May 05, 2007

Alibaba and the coming IPO

The NEXT big IPO is coming from Alibaba.com, the famous Chinese internet e-commerce company.

Yun Ma(Jack Ma) is a Chinese internet legend. An English major but almost an IT illiterate, he envisioned that there was an opportunity for building a gateway between foreign buyers and Chinese suppliers. He founded Alibaba.com with one English website facilitating foreign buyers to find Chinese suppliers and Chinese suppliers to find foreign buyers. The Chinese website designed to help Chinese companies to trade between each other.

The idea soon turned out to be one of largest success stories in Chinese internet market.

According to Alibaba

Alibaba International (www.alibaba.com) is the world's largest online B2B marketplace for global trade. More than 500,000 people visit the site every day, most of them global buyers and importers looking to find and trade with sellers in China and other major manufacturing countries. Alibaba International has more than three million registered users from over 200 countries and territories.

Alibaba China (www.china.alibaba.com) is the largest Chinese language B2B marketplace for domestic China trade. With more than 16 million registered users, Alibaba China is a trusted online and offline community of SMEs who regularly meet, chat, search for products and do business.

History & Milestones:
1999 March: Alibaba.com is founded in Jack Ma's apartment in Hangzhou as an online B2B marketplace (18 employees)
1999-2000 Company raises US$25 million from Softbank, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, and other institutions
2000 July: Alibaba.com honored by Forbes Magazine as "Best of the Web: B2B"
2001 December: Alibaba.com becomes the world's largest B2B e-commerce website with more than 1 million registered members
2002 December: Company further expands market leadership in China with its "Gold Supplier" product, a premium service that allows exporters to market their companies and products online
2003 November: Communication tool "Trade Manager" is launched, allowing buyers and sellers on Alibaba.com to communicate in real time
2004 October: Alibaba.com becomes the only import-export website to win Forbes "Best of the Web" award five years in a row
2005 October: Yahoo! Inc invests US$1billion in Alibaba Group and Alibaba Group acquires Yahoo! China. The strategic partnership allows both companies to leverage each other's brands and resources worldwide
2006 February: Alibaba.com launches trade show partnership program
November: Alibaba.com appoints David Wei as President of Alibaba.com
2007 April: Alibaba.com launches its "Gold Supplier" product in Hong Kong - the first market outside of mainland China to be offered Alibaba.com's core premium service for exporters

A short, skinny figure, Ma is nothing but a heavyweight champ in Chinese internet market. Yahoo's $1 billion investment valued Alibaba group at over $3 billion dollars, now only second to the other phenomenal Chinese compay Baidu in value.

Ma' second act:

In May 2003, armed with success of Alibaba, Ma invested 450 million yuan and created the Chinese Ebay - Taobao.com. Later, a payment service, the Chinese Paypal - Alipay was also created.

Ma is also a Chinese "internet hero". After initial partnering with EachNet, Ebay formally entered China. But Ma is not a conventional person. He saw there was only a "live or die" scenario with Ebay. He decided to hit at Ebay hard. In October, 2005, Taobao announced that listing will be free for three consecutive years. On the same day, Ebay's stock price fell 7% on Nasdaq.

A year later, Ebay got out of China by folding Ebay/Each into Tom.com. However, how Taobao will be profitable is left a big question mark.

Ma' third act:

Beat Baidu is Ma's ambitious target after acquiring Yahoo.China.

Soon after the merger with Yahoo.China, Ma announced that Yahoo.China will surpass Baidu to become the largest Chinese search engine. He redesigned Yahoo Chinese site by imitating Baidu the way Baidu imitated Google. The "sou"(bad idea in Chinese) idea has been a disaster. Yahoo.China is on the way to disappearance.

In the last tweleve months, the "bigmouth" Ma has been unusually quiet. One only notable announcement from last month was the agreement to "buy or rent"Microsoft's business applications software on Alibaba.com. Ma thinks it will make using software be as easy as using water and electricity for the small companies in China. Bill Gates agreed.

It is rumored that alibaba either will list on Hongkong or New York stock market this year. Only Alibaba.com, one of the three branches under Alibaba group will be listed. Clearly, the missteps in the other two divisions, Taobao and Yahoo.China, make Alibaba.com the only attractive security to be IPOed. Ma has claimed repeatly that Alibaba was making "too much" money.

Whether Alibaba's IPO will have as much fanfare as Baidu's is remained to be seen.

1 Comments:

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4:31 AM  

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