Alibaba’s growth accelerates, US IPO filing expected next week

Chinese internet firm prepares for the largest US IPO since Facebook’s 2012 coming-out party

Alibaba’s revenue growth accelerated in the last quarter of 2013, a timely lift for the Chinese Internet company as it prepares to file a prospectus next week for its highly anticipated initial public offering.

Alibaba is expected to file prospectus for the share sale as early as Monday, sources said, as it prepares for the largest US IPO since Facebook’s 2012 coming-out party. Alibaba had no comment on the prospectus filing, a spokeswoman said.

The company which powers four-fifths of all Chinese online consumer shopping recorded a 66 per cent surge in sales to $3.06 billion in 2013’s final three months compared with a year earlier. The numbers - the latest available for Alibaba - were released on Tuesday alongside first-quarter 2014 earnings for 24 per cent shareholder Yahoo.

The listing is the most highly anticipated of what’s expected to be a record year for US tech debuts, spurred on by social media company Twitter’s successful 2013 IPO.

Alibaba’s resurgence after several quarters of slowing growth helped lift shares of Japan’s SoftBank and Yahoo, which own 37 per cent and 24 per cent of the Chinese company and highly sensitive to the Chinese firm’s growth prospects and valuation.

SoftBank’s shares surged as much as 9.1 per cent and traded 7.9 per cent higher in mid-afternoon trading in Tokyo. Yahoo’s stock gained more than 9 per cent after hours, despite reporting anemic quarterly revenue and display advertising growth in its own business.

Alibaba is planning to award about one-third of the fees for its IPO in the form of incentive bonuses to coax better performance from underwriters, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. The company plans to pay at least 1.1 per cent of the total IPO proceeds in fees, making the fee pool at an estimated $200 million, the report added.

Alibaba’s fourth-quarter sales growth came after it posted its slowest rate of growth in three quarters during the July-to-September period. For the October-December quarter it recorded a doubling in net income to $1.36 billion.

Alibaba, founded 15 years ago by outspoken English schoolteacher Jack Ma, has cornered the Chinese Internet consumer market and expanded into everything from online auctions to messaging and payments.

An IPO could arm the company as it tries also to dominate the nascent mobile shopping and social media arenas. Market participants expect it to raise as much as $16 billion this year.