Alibaba IPO Could Be Coming Sooner than Expected

Chinese Internet giant Alibaba is looking to become a public company much sooner than originally thought, the FOX Business Network has learned.

People with direct knowledge of the deal say underwriters are planning a “road show” where they will introduce the company to investors sometime in late July, with an initial  public offering pricing date tentatively scheduled for the first week in August.

These people add that initial reports that Alibaba would price its IPO on August 8 -- because the number eight is considered fortuitous in the Chinese culture -- are wrong. August 8 is a Friday, which makes pricing of shares for sale impossible since the markets are closed over the weekend.

Moreover, under the plan envisioned by the company and its underwriters, the IPO pricing will likely occur before August 8 while many Wall Street firms and large investors have yet to take their summer vacations, which typically occur during that month.

An Alibaba spokeswoman declined to comment.

At $15 billion, Alibaba’s IPO would rank as the second-largest technology IPO in history,  surpassed in terms of size only by Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) $16 billion offering in 2012; underwriting sources say that based on demand Alibaba might increase the deal size and then surpass Facebook’s offering.

Underwriting sources say the IPO date could change based on market conditions, meaning that there is a chance that the company could delay the deal until September, but that is unlikely.

One issue the company has yet to decide on is which exchange to have its shares listed. As FOX Business was first to report both Nasdaq chief Bob Greifeld and New York Stock Exchange chief Duncan Niederauer met with Alibaba officials late last month in a last-minute push to win the coveted assignment.

Underwriters for the deal have been prodding Alibaba management, including co-founder Jack Ma, to select the NYSE to list its shares following several tech flubs at rival Nasdaq. But in recent weeks Nasdaq officials have been fighting back, telling company management that Chinese investors can’t buy shares of Alibaba if they are listed on the NYSE, but they can invest in Alibaba by purchasing the Guotai Nasdaq-100 exchanged-traded fund, launched last year on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Also, Nasdaq officials are touting the recent success of Chinese Internet company JD.com (JD) as a selling point. JD.com, a Chinese online retailer, exceeded expectations for its initial public offering this week, raising $1.78 billion and valuing the company at $25.7 billion, higher than Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) value at its market debut last fall.