China e-commerce giant Alibaba will list and start trading at Hong Kong Exchange on Monday after it priced 500 million shares at HK$176 per share (US$22.50).
This secondary listing follows its New York listing in 2014 which raised US$25 billion. This came after the rejection of its application in Hong Kong as the exchange did not allow the dual-class share structure. The rule was changed in 2018 and companies promptly jumped in. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and Tencent-backed food delivery firm Meituan Dianping listed their dual-class shares at the exchange.
Dual-class shares are also included in the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect, allowing Chinese investors to buy and thus support their share prices.
“When Alibaba Group went public in 2014, we missed out on Hong Kong with regret. Hong Kong is one of the world’s most important financial centers,” Alibaba chief executive officer Daniel Zhang said in a letter to shareholders last week. “Over the last few years, there have been many encouraging reforms in Hong Kong’s capital market.”
The company which has a strategy by 2036 to serve 2 billion consumers globally, create 100 million jobs, and provide the necessary infrastructure to support 10 million small businesses on its platform, will trade under the stock code 9988.HK inspired by auspicious numbers in Chinese culture with 9 representing long and 8 representing prosperous.
The US$13 billion it is expected to be raised from the Hong Kong listing, including the 75 million over-allotment option, is a drop in its $485 billion market capitalization. And yet it is an important offering. In September, media reports said the Chinese government dispatched officials to many local corporations including Alibaba, in an effort to exert greater influence over the country’s massive private sector.
It comes at a time when Hong Kong has been ravaged by anti-government demonstrations and violence on its streets, forcing the government to make a downward revision of gross domestic product for the year as a whole, the first annual contraction in a decade. GDP is forecast to shrink for the year by 1.3% as opposed to the early forecast of a 0-1% expansion, the first annual contraction since 2009. In May, it had forecast GDP would grow by 2-3% in 2019, the month before the protests began.
“During this time of ongoing change, we continue to believe that the future of Hong Kong remains bright. We hope we can contribute, in our small way, and participate in the future of Hong Kong,” Zhang’s letter said in a show of support.