Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares mark maiden day of trade

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    HONG KONG- Alibaba Group’s Hong Kong shares made a solid debut yesterday, trading 6.9 percent higher than their issue price and at a small premium to pricing in New York after marking the world’s largest stock sale this year.

    The Chinese e-commerce giant has raised at least $11.3 billion from the secondary listing, which has been seen as a vote of confidence in Hong Kong’s financial future amid six months of sometimes violent anti-government protests.

    That amount could climb to as much as $12.9 billion if Alibaba chooses to exercise an over-allotment option within 30 days of the start of trade.

    The funds raised will help Alibaba, the biggest company in Asia by market value and world’s seventh largest, invest more in a range of online services.

    But analysts also note that the establishment of a base of investors in Hong Kong and China could function as a backup for the company should its shares be hit in New York amid the US-China trade dispute.

    In early afternoon trade, the shares were exchanging hands at HK$188.10. That compares with its issue price of HK$176 and a closing price for Alibaba’s ADS of $190.45 which would be equivalent to HK$186.3 a share as each ADS is worth eight Hong Kong shares.

    The Hong Kong and New York stocks are fungible, which means investors can buy and sell the same shares on either exchange and that pricing on the exchanges are unlikely to diverge too far from each other.

    The premium to New York reflects the willingness of investors in the city and Asia to take on the stock of a company they know well, market participants said. Expectations are also high that it will get a lift in valuation when it becomes eligible for trading in the Stock Connect that links Shanghai and Shenzhen with Hong Kong next June.

    “There will be some upside for the company’s price in Hong Kong but I don’t think we will see the shares double or triple in a year,” said Geo Securities Chief Executive Francis Lun.

    At Tuesday’s listing ceremony, CEO Daniel Zhang noted the Hong Kong debut had been a long time coming.

    Alibaba had hoped to initially list in Hong Kong, but eventually chose New York for its record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering in 2014 after its unusual governance structure failed to win acceptance from Hong Kong regulators. – Reuters