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Alibaba Said to Push Back Start of IPO Investor Meetings

People walk through Alibaba.com Ltd.'s headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. Chinese Internet users have grown to 632 million and could exceed 850 million by 2015, according to government data. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg
People walk through Alibaba.com Ltd.'s headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. Chinese Internet users have grown to 632 million and could exceed 850 million by 2015, according to government data. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is postponing the start of investor meetings for its initial public offering by about a week to answer questions posed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The Chinese e-commerce giant, which was weighing a plan to market its IPO early this week, now expects the meetings to begin in the week of Sept. 8, with tentative pricing on Sept. 18 and trading to start the following day, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Alibaba, based in Hangzhou, China, has been in discussions with the SEC as it seeks regulatory approval of its prospectus. The company has held off rushing the deal after originally targeting an early-August trading debut, a person familiar with the matter said in July.

“There shouldn’t be any obstacles for proceeding with the IPO,” said Li Muzhi, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Arete Research Service LLP. “This just gives them a bit more time.”

Florence Shih, a spokeswoman for Alibaba in Hong Kong, declined to comment.

The investor meetings, known as a roadshow, will give Alibaba, founded by billionaire Jack Ma, the opportunity to answer questions from the world’s biggest fund managers and build demand for its shares. With Alibaba and selling shareholders expected to raise as much as $20 billion, the IPO has the potential to be the largest offering in U.S. history.

Surpassing Visa

At $20 billion, Alibaba’s sale would edge past Visa Inc.’s $19.65 billion IPO in 2008 as the biggest in U.S. history, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Chinese e-commerce operator, which plans to sell shares on the New York Stock Exchange, may set its IPO value at $154 billion, or 22 percent below analyst valuations, in a move that could avoid repeating Facebook Inc.’s listing flop, according to the average estimate in a Bloomberg survey of five analysts last month. The poll respondents give Alibaba an average post-listing valuation of $198 billion.

Ma, the 49-year-old founder and chairman whose assets include a 7.3 percent economic interest in Alibaba, has emerged as China’s richest person, with a net worth of $21.8 billion, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index shows.

Arete Research also said a key issue for regulators relating to the separation of Alipay, Alibaba’s finance affiliate, had now been resolved after the company agreed to a new deal with the payment processor earlier this month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Leslie Picker in New York at lpicker2@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Browning in Hong Kong at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stanley James at sjames8@bloomberg.net Jim McDonald, Yee Kai Pin

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