Alibaba to Appoint New CFO Ahead of Anticipated IPO

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. named a new chief financial officer as part of a management reorganization that has fueled speculation China’s largest e-commerce company is preparing for an initial public offering.

Alibaba will promote deputy CFO Maggie Wu to replace Joseph Tsai on May 10, the same day billionaire Jack Ma relinquishes the post of chief executive officer, according to a company statement yesterday. Tsai will become executive vice chairman and oversee strategic investment.

The management changes come after the June delisting of a Hong Kong unit and the buying back of a stake held by Yahoo! Inc. in a deal valuing Alibaba at $35 billion. The Hangzhou-based company started in 1999 as an online marketplace for Chinese companies, growing as liberalization spurred an economic boom in a country with more Web users than the population of any other nation except India.

“Maggie has been the CFO of the listed company, she knows how to handle investors well,” said Victor Yip, an analyst at UOB-Kay Hian Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong. Her appointment is part of the preparation for an initial share sale, Yip said.

Wu has been with the company since July 2007 and helped lead the privatization last year of the company’s B2B unit that was listed in Hong Kong. She previously was an audit partner at KPMG LLP in Beijing.

‘No Timetable’

Ma said in June the company could sell shares in an IPO within five years. Alibaba has “no timetable for an IPO,” Florence Shih, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday.

The company has shortlisted banks for a loan of as much as $8 billion, according to three people familiar with the matter. Nine lenders are seeking internal approvals to underwrite at least $500 million each, said the people, asking not to be identified because the details are private.

China had 564 million Internet users at the end of 2012, 10 percent more than the year before, according to the government-run China Internet Network Information Center.

The country also has more online shoppers than the U.S., and the value of its online retail sales may triple to $360 billion by 2015, Boston Consulting Group estimated last year.

Alibaba agreed in May to buy back about half of Yahoo’s 40 percent stake for about $7.1 billion. Yahoo acquired the shares in 2005 in exchange for $1 billion and ownership of Yahoo’s Chinese operations.

Alibaba delisted its Hong Kong unit last year after paying HK$18.3 billion ($2.4 billion) to buy back the 27 percent stake held by minority investors.

“We have built up a team of strong leaders who are ready to step up and take the company into its next phase,” Tsai said in the statement.

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