Alibaba set to steal limelight

Editorial | Mary Ma 12 Nov 2019

The timing of Alibaba's homecoming back to Hong Kong for a secondary listing is unconventional in a way that may be similar to the charm that its founder, Jack Ma Yun, holds for western media, which is more so than for any of China's leaders.

Alibaba's listing application is due to be heard formally this week. It's a foregone conclusion that open sesame will be the response at the end of the hearing.

Will investors line up to give the mainland e-commerce giant the princely sum of US$15 billion (HK$117 billion) in exchange for its shares at a time when this financial hub is in the grips of its longest and worst social unrest since World War II.

The public offering outcome would give a very defining indication in this regard.

Just take a look at what apparently happened yesterday: viral footage of a traffic policeman shooting a young protester at point-blank range in Sai Wan Ho and a middle-aged man being set on fire during a quarrel in Ma On Shan were shocking enough to give punters an excuse to wipe several hundred points off the market.

Alibaba may be big. Its plan to raise up to US$15 billion here will set another world record.

It has mulled over the choice of Hong Kong for a secondary listing for quite a while now. As the US government turns even more anti-China, it is strategically important for Alibaba - as well as other mainland firms - to diversify access to capital markets.

The secondary listing of Alibaba was initially planned for August but deferred to October amid expectations that anti-extradition bill protests would peter out before National Day.

It was then postponed further. The new time frame affords the company an additional opportunity to show investors that it is on course to achieve another record-breaking year of sales for its annual Singles' Day sale extravagantza held yesterday.

Although Ma has bowed out of the company amid a wide mix of speculation, including some of a political nature, the western media is still treating him as internet royalty as the firm reports preliminary figures for its Singles' Day sales were robust.

The question is: should investors take all these statistics for granted without raising even a single question?

Online shopping is defined by the ultimate selling point - convenience. Just as it is convenient to place orders, it is no less so to return goods post delivery. After reading all about the great things on sale, do shopaholics know how many of them have been returned due to quality or other gripes?

Furthermore, are the figures consistent with national macroeconomic data as a whole?

Official figures show that while mainland inflation has risen alarmingly, production has plummeted, suggesting there exists a serious threat of stagflation. So, are these seemingly opposing sets of figures not contradict each other?

It's most likely that when the final sales figures are announced, public attention will be partially diverted from the unrest to another record year of Singles' Day sales.

For a different sort of record, however, Alibaba's return provides a timely boost for the SAR's image as an international financial center.

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