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Alibaba’s Global Online Commerce Arm Weighs US IPO

Alibaba App.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s explores a US initial public offering. (Shutterstock)

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s international online shopping unit is exploring a US initial public offering as it weighs options to spur growth for the business that includes major e-commerce brands Lazada and AliExpress.

The firm is in the early stages of consideration, and the IPO’s size has yet to be determined, according to people familiar with the matter. The business group is in talks with banks that could potentially help prepare for the IPO next year, said one of the people, who asked not to be named as the matter is private. Alibaba’s US-listed shares spiked as much as 5 percent in pre-market trading in New York.

The unit, which competes with rivals such as Amazon Inc. in markets outside China, is one of six parts that Alibaba is splitting into. Valuations for the international business units vary — Morgan Stanley in March priced “international retail” units, including Lazada and Trendyol, at roughly $29 billion, while a CICC analyst report from the same month valued the firm’s international division at about $39 billion. In recent quarters, however, growth has been volatile in the face of global recessionary fears.

If it goes ahead, the Alibaba unit would join a number of high-profile Chinese firms, including fast-fashion leader Shein seeking to tap American capital even as tensions rise between the world’s two largest economies. A listing in the US could help the business — formally Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group, or IDCG — attract global investors wary of putting money directly into China.

Alibaba in March unveiled plans to break up its empire into units such as e-commerce, logistics and the cloud, with each business potentially exploring fundraising and an IPO at an appropriate time. The company will consider gradually giving up control of some of the businesses, chief executive officer Daniel Zhang said at the time but declined to specify a timeline for any IPOs.

IDCG includes Southeast Asian online mall Lazada; AliExpress, popular in Russia, Latin America and parts of Europe; Trendyol in Turkey; Daraz in South Asia and business-to-business marketplace Alibaba. In the final three months of 2022, the combined orders of Lazada, AliExpress, Trendyol and Daraz grew 3 percent from a year earlier, led by Trendyol. The international unit accounted for roughly $9.5 billion or 7 percent of Alibaba’s revenue in the last fiscal year and is headed by Jiang Fan, the former president of Alibaba’s domestic online retail businesses Taobao and Tmall.

Other parts of Alibaba’s empire have already begun moving ahead with spinoffs. Cainiao Network Technology Co., the logistics arm of Alibaba, as well as Freshippo, its grocery chain, have started preparations with banks for IPOs in Hong Kong.

Deliberations around an IPO are very preliminary, and the situation may change, the people said. IDCG said in response to queries from Bloomberg that currently, there is no IPO plan.

Alibaba has in the past explored splitting off Lazada. The unit, bought in stages from Rocket Internet SE, is considered one of the Chinese firm’s most high-profile international brands. It competes with Amazon and Sea Ltd.’s Shopee in Southeast Asian markets such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

In 2022, Alibaba discussed raising at least $1 billion for Lazada before calling off negotiations with potential investors when talks bogged down over its valuation. It had aimed to secure the funding as a precursor to a spinoff. Alibaba has since mothballed the fundraising and injected additional funds into the company instead.

By David Ramli and Yoolim Lee

Learn more:

Inside Alibaba’s Restructuring Plan

Alibaba Group is planning to split into six units and explore fundraisings or listings for most of them in a major revamp as China vows to ease a sweeping regulatory crackdown and support its private enterprises.

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