Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse, is ready to strike it rich on the New York Stock Exchange. The company priced its initial public offering of stock at $68 per share today, the top end of the expected range, setting the stage for what is expected to be the biggest ever IPO. The stock will start trading tomorrow under the ticker "BABA" on the NYSE. The IPO values Alibaba at $167.62 billion. That's bigger than the current market value of Amazon, Cisco, and eBay, though Forbes notes that it's less than Facebook's $200.2 billion. The company has enjoyed a surge in US popularity over the past two weeks as investors met with executives, including its colorful founder Jack Ma. (He is a former English teacher who swears he doesn't know much about technology.)
As part of the so-called roadshow, would-be investors heard a sales pitch that centered on Alibaba's strong revenue growth and seemingly endless possibilities for expansion. Alibaba said it is offering 320.1 million shares for a total offering size of $21.77 billion. Underwriters have a 30-day option to buy up to about 48 million more shares, which means that figure could rise to $25 billion. The main reason investors appear breathless about the 15-year old Alibaba: It offers an investment vehicle that taps into China's burgeoning middle-class. Alibaba's Taobao, TMall, and other platforms account for some 80% of Chinese online commerce. And most of Alibaba's 279 million active buyers visit the sites at least once a month on smartphones and other mobile devices.