Chinese online shopping giant Alibaba said on Tuesday it would seek an initial listing in Hong Kong, a move that would eventually allow more people in mainland China to invest in it. , and will provide a buffer in case it is forced to remove it from the list. on regulatory concerns in the United States.
The listing is the latest sign that Chinese companies are looking for ways to reduce risk as they find themselves under pressure from regulators on both sides of the Pacific. It also shows how the one-time love affair between Chinese tech firms and Wall Street is coming to a close.
Over the past two years, Chinese firms seeking capital in the U.S. have struggled amid a widening Chinese regulatory crackdown on big tech. Alibaba’s financial affiliate, Ant Group, canceled Blockbuster’s United States listing at the last minute at the behest of Chinese regulators. A separate investigation into ride-hailing firm Didi dragged down its shares just six months after it floated in New York.
At the same time, United States regulators are working to implement Trump-era rules that require better auditing disclosures. The Chinese government has insisted that most information, particularly sensitive data collected by Internet firms, cannot be shared abroad. Although talks between US and Chinese regulators are ongoing, the disagreement could result in the delisting of hundreds of Chinese companies.
For Alibaba, the new Hong Kong listing arrangement provides the company with a safety net against such risks. It also gives the company a boost by making it more accessible to the millions of Chinese businessmen who have so far had limited ability to buy shares in the company they buy every day. Alibaba shares rose more than 5 percent in early morning trading in Hong Kong on the news of the listing.
July 25, 2022, 8:26 PM ET
Although Alibaba was already trading in Hong Kong, the new listing process will help it take advantage of a program that connects the Hong Kong market with those in China. Alibaba said in a filing that it expects to complete the process by the end of this year.
“Hong Kong is also the launch pad for Alibaba’s globalization strategy,” said Daniel Zhang, the company’s chief executive, in a statement. He added that the new listing will “foster a broader and more diverse investor base to share Alibaba’s growth and future, particularly from China and other markets in Asia.”
The dual listing marks a major shift from less than a decade ago, when Alibaba made the world’s largest initial public offering by selling its shares in New York in 2014. Rapid innovation in the Chinese tech sector is taking the world by storm.
But since 2020, Alibaba’s share price has more than halved as a result of a crackdown by Chinese regulators, while stricter Covid control measures have hurt domestic spending. The Chinese government has imposed several large fines on the country’s largest internet firms. Alibaba was ordered to pay $2.8 billion in 2021 for antitrust violations. Just last week, Didi, the ride-hailing giant, received $1.2 billion.
Analysts have said regulators may ease pressure on Chinese internet companies to boost slowing economic growth. But many see Beijing’s tight grip on big tech as a feature that is here to stay.