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Alibaba Said to Plan IPO for 2014 as Company Mulls U.S. Listing

Employees work at Ltd.'s headquarters in Hangzhou. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
Employees work at Ltd.'s headquarters in Hangzhou. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest e-commerce company, will go public in 2014 after talks with Hong Kong’s exchange on a proposed corporate governance structure fell apart, said people with knowledge of the matter.

Alibaba is unlikely to file for an IPO before year-end, though such a move is still possible, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. The company is moving toward a U.S. sale after talks with Hong Kong’s exchange broke down, a person familiar with the matter said last month.

By going public next year, the Hangzhou, China-based company can see how Twitter Inc., the biggest Internet IPO since Facebook Inc.’s $16 billion sale last year, fares after listing before pushing ahead with its own offering.

Investment banks have valued Alibaba, founded by former English teacher Jack Ma, at as much as $120 billion, which would make it the third-biggest Internet company behind Google Inc. and Inc. based on market capitalization, and almost tied with Facebook’s $119.5 billion. Alibaba has decided not to list in Hong Kong, Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Lu told Reuters this week.

John Spelich, a spokesman for Alibaba, said the company has no timetable for an IPO, hasn’t hired investment bankers and hasn’t made a decision about where to go public. The company had asked Hong Kong’s exchange to allow a partnership of executives and shareholders to nominate the majority of board members, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Twitter is seeking to raise more than $1 billion and will probably start a roadshow with bankers to promote the IPO in the last week of October, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The social-media service is leaning toward listing on the New York Stock Exchange, one of the people said.

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