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Why Now, and Why Hong Kong, for Alibaba’s Share Sale?

Not business as usual.

Not business as usual.

Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg
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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. pulled off the biggest-ever initial public offering on Wall Street five years ago and today sports a market capitalization north of $450 billion. So why is it raising billions more now in Hong Kong, where months of violent pro-democracy protests have unsettled investors and helped tip the city into recession? Fresh capital isn’t the only reason.

At the most basic level, it raised more than $11 billion -- the biggest share sale in Hong Kong in nearly a decade and almost half the total raised in New York. Alibaba said it would use the proceeds to drive user engagement, improve operational efficiency and pay for continued innovation, according to the terms for the deal. More broadly, Alibaba has been trying to sustain growth at a time when the engines of China’s economy are sputtering and the country clashes with the U.S. over trade. The funds also help Alibaba finance a costly war against homegrown rivals nipping at its heels.