Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s international online shopping unit is exploring a U.S. initial public offering as it weighs options to spur growth for the business that includes major ecommerce brands Lazada and AliExpress.
The firm is in the early stages of consideration. The IPO’s size has also yet to be determined, according to people familiar with the matter. The business group is in talks with banks that could potentially help prepare for the IPO next year, said one of the people. The person asked not to be named as the matter is private.
The unit, which competes with rivals such as Amazon.com Inc. in markets outside China, is one of six parts that Alibaba is splitting into. Valuations for the international business units vary: Morgan Stanley in March priced “international retail” units including Lazada and Trendyol at roughly $29 billion. Meanwhile, a CICC analyst report from the same month valued the firm’s international division at about $39 billion. In recent quarters, however, growth has been volatile in the face of global recessionary fears.
If it goes ahead, the Alibaba unit would join a number of high-profile Chinese firms including fast-fashion leader Shein seeking to tap American capital even as tensions rise between the world’s two largest economies. A listing in the U.S. could help the business — formally Alibaba International Digital Commerce Group, or IDCG — attract global investors wary of putting money directly into China.
Alibaba owns Taobao, No. 1 in the Digital Commerce 360 database of Global Online Marketplaces. The database ranks marketplaces by total value, or gross merchandise value of sales. Alibaba also owns Tmall (No. 2).
Amazon is No. 3 in the Global Online Marketplace Database. It’s also No. 1 in the 2022 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 database. The Top 1000 ranks North American web merchants by sales.
Shein is No. 36 in the Digital Commerce 360 2022 Asia Database, which ranks Asia-based retailers by their online sales.
Alibaba empire considers IPOs
Alibaba in March unveiled plans to break up its empire into units such as ecommerce, logistics and the cloud, with each business potentially exploring fundraising and an IPO at an appropriate time. The company will consider gradually giving up control of some of the businesses, CEO Daniel Zhang said at the time, but declined to specify a timeline for any Alibaba IPOs.
- Southeast Asian online mall Lazada
- AliExpress, popular in Russia, Latin America and parts of Europe
- Trendyol in Turkey
- Daraz in South Asia
- Business-to-business marketplace Alibaba.com
In the final three months of 2022, the combined orders of Lazada, AliExpress, Trendyol and Daraz grew 3% from a year earlier, led by Trendyol. The international unit accounted for roughly $9.5 billion or 7% of Alibaba’s revenue in the last fiscal year and is headed by Jiang Fan, the former president of Alibaba’s domestic online retail businesses Taobao and Tmall.
Other parts of Alibaba’s empire have already begun moving ahead with spinoffs. Cainiao Network Technology Co., the logistics arm of Alibaba, as well as Freshippo, its grocery chain, have started preparations with banks for IPOs in Hong Kong.
Deliberations around an IPO are very preliminary and the situation may change, the people said. IDCG said in response to queries from Bloomberg that currently, there is no IPO plan.
Alibaba has in the past explored splitting off Lazada. The unit, bought in stages from Rocket Internet SE, is considered one of the Chinese firm’s most high-profile international brands. It competes with Amazon and Sea Ltd.’s Shopee in Southeast Asian markets such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
In 2022, Alibaba discussed raising at least $1 billion for Lazada before calling off negotiations with potential investors when talks bogged down over its valuation. It had aimed to secure the funding as a precursor to a spinoff. Alibaba has since mothballed the fundraising and injected additional funds into the company instead.
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