Alibaba Group plans to take its business-to-business unit public to highlight the growing international ambitions of one of China's most prominent Internet companies.

Alibaba, 40% owned by Yahoo, plans to list the B2B operation on either the Nasdaq Stock Market or the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong. The unit, the company's biggest source of revenue, uses the Internet to help match manufacturers in China and elsewhere with potential buyers of their products.

Alibaba has selected Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as lead underwriters for the offering. A person familiar with the plans said the offering could raise around US$800 million, and is slated for the third quarter.

An Alibaba initial public offering of stock would give investors access to what is perhaps the biggest name in China's Internet sector that isn't already publicly listed. It could also raise Alibaba's profile at a time when the company is accelerating the overseas expansion of its B2B site. In advance of the planned IPO, Alibaba has also restructured its operations, creating a holding company called Alibaba Group that owns five subsidiaries, including the B2B unit, which is called Alibaba.com.

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