Alibaba postpones $15bn Hong Kong listing amid protests

The deal could be potentially launched as early as October, depending on the situation in the semiautonomous region

China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has delayed its up to $15bn listing in Hong Kong amid growing political unrest in the Asian financial hub, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

While no new timetable has been formally set, Alibaba could potentially launch the deal, initially due for late August, as early as October, still seeking to raise $10bn-$15bn, depending on whether political tensions had eased and market conditions became more favorable, one of the people told Reuters. This decision was made at a board meeting before Alibaba’s earnings release last week, the second person said.

Preparations for Alibaba’s listing, potentially the world’s biggest equity deal this year and the largest follow-on share sale in seven years, have been underway for some time. The delay, however comes due to the lack of financial and political stability in Hong Kong, following more than 11 weeks of frequently violent pro-democracy demonstrations which have plunged the city into turmoil.

"It would be very unwise to launch the deal now or anytime soon," the first person said. "It would certainly annoy Beijing by offering Hong Kong such a big gift given what's going on in the city," the sources commented.

According to the information Alibaba views the deal as a way to "diversify its access to capital markets", not as core to its business, so the company "does not see the postponement as a blow". Still, Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listing plans are being closely watched by the financial community for indications on the business environment in the Chinese-controlled territory and provides a window into Beijing’s reading of the situation. 

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