Alibaba will 'seriously consider' HK listing

SHANGHAI • Alibaba Group Holding will "seriously consider" listing in Hong Kong, founder Jack Ma has said, potentially providing a powerful boost to the financial hub which is preparing to allow dual-class share listings.

Mr Ma was responding to remarks made at an event in the city on Monday by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam about how she hoped Alibaba would consider returning to the city to list, an Alibaba spokesman said.

"Daring to speak like this marks a strong commitment so we will definitely seriously consider the Hong Kong market," Mr Ma said.

Alibaba held its record US$25 billion (S$33 billion) public float in New York in 2014 after Hong Kong, its favoured venue, refused to accept its governance structure where a self-selecting group of senior managers control the majority of board appointments.

Hong Kong is now set to allow dual-class shares under rule changes to be proposed by the stock exchange as it raises the stakes in its battle against New York for blockbuster Chinese initial public offerings. Such shares grant differentiated voting rights and underpin the alternative governance and shareholding structures favoured by many owners of new-age industries such as technology.

Over US$3 billion worth of Alibaba shares were traded on Monday, based on Reuters calculations using Nasdaq data. The stock closed at US$190.33, with 16.23 million shares traded.

Shares in Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the city's exchange operator, rose as much as 3.1 per cent to HK$270 yesterday, their highest level since July 2015.

Analysts said an Alibaba listing in Hong Kong could help drive more funds from the mainland to the city and could convince other big companies, in particular technology-related ones, to list in the financial hub.

"If the trading volume in Hong Kong is even better than that in the US, it will send out a signal to other new economy new listings that Hong Kong is a much better place for a listing than the US," said Mr Steven Leung, sales director at UOB Kay Hian in Hong Kong.

For Alibaba, it could provide greater access to investors closer to China and allow it to benefit from the Hong Kong government's growing support for financial services innovation, said Mr James Lloyd, Asia-Pacific fintech leader at consulting firm EY.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline 'Alibaba will 'seriously consider' HK listing'. Print Edition | Subscribe