The Alibaba IPO of September 19 2014

Alibaba (1)

Dear PGM Capital Blog readers,
In this weekend’s blog edition, we want to discuss with you, the “Alibaba Group Holding” that went IPO on Friday September 19, 2014.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited (NYSE: BABA) is China’s largest retailer.

Originally founded 1999 by an English schoolteacher by the name of Jack Ma, Alibaba has carved its place via, which connects Chinese suppliers of pretty much anything with buyers, within the Chinese Internet consumer market and expanded its reaches into every single possible thing, from online auctions to messaging and payments. has since expanded to launch other websites – including Taobao and Tmail – which now dominate the e-commerce market.


Alibaba founder Jack Ma

It also has major investments in the Chinese equivalent to Twitter (Sina Weibo), a YouTube-esque site called Youku Tudou and owns 50 percent of China’s most successful football club, Guangzhou Evergrande.

In 2012, two of Alibaba’s portals together handled 1.1 trillion yuan (US$170 billion) in sales, more than competitors eBay Inc (NYSE: EBAY) and Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN) combined.

The company’s turnover in 2013 was US$6.73 billion and is expected to be much more this year. As a comparison, Facebook made US$3.7 billion in 2011, just before it had its own IPO which ended up giving the social networking company a value of more than $100 billion. More exciting is the company’s increase in profits, which have tripled in a year.

As can be seen from below pie-chart, it is responsible for 80 percent of all online sales in China – the world’s second biggest economy after the United States – and handles more transactions than eBay and Amazon combined.

Alibabas Share of Internet Retail Sales in China

The company primarily operates in the People’s Republic of China, and in March 2013 was estimated by The Economist magazine to have a valuation between US$55 billion to more than US$120 billion.

Furthermore, Alibaba’s strategy of creating a worldwide e-commerce empire with its own financial services has attracted close scrutiny from China’s regulators and resistance from the country’s banks.

An IPO could further fuel the company as it continues to gain control over the mobile shopping and social media venues.

On 5 September 2014, the group—in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission—set a US$60- to US$66- per-share price range for its scheduled initial public offering (IPO), the final price of which would be determined after an international roadshow.

Let us flex the numbers in below table to see what the Chinese e-commerce giant might fetch in an IPO.


With is IPO date of September 19, it is  going to release 368 million shares (with a starting price between $66 and $68 per share) onto the New York Stock Exchange in order to raise around US$25 billion in funds that it can then use to expand the company to the US and Europe.

  • On 18 September 2014, Alibaba’s IPO priced at US$68, raising US$21.8 billion for the company and investors. Alibaba is the biggest U.S. IPO in history.
  • On September 19, 2014, Alibaba’s shares (NYSE:BABA) began trading on the NYSE.
  • The stock opened at US$92.70 shortly before noon ET and quickly rose to a high of US$99.70, before paring gains to close at $93.89 an increase of 38 percent on its market debut.
  • Some 271 million shares changed hands on the IPO date.

Below chart shows the performance of the Alibaba Group shares on their market debut date of Friday September 19, 2014.

September 19 2014, Alibaba IPO stock performance

Alibaba flags and banners decorated the NYSE façade in orange and white. Inside, executives mixed with a press pack including 130 Chinese journalists, reflecting the excitement in Alibaba’s home market around its offering

At the close of the market on Friday, September 19 2014, the Chinese e-commerce company had officially logged the biggest Initial Public Offering (IPO) in US history, raising US$21.8 billion in its first day on the New York Stock Exchange.

Less than half of the funds raised will actually go into Alibaba’s accounts, however, with the rest a moneymaking bonanza for insiders. The biggest windfall in terms of pure cash goes to Yahoo, which received 40 percent of Alibaba in exchange for US$1 billion and control of Yahoo China in 2005.

Yahoo already made US$7.6 billion when it sold some stock back to Alibaba in 2012. Now it has earned about US$8.3 billion from a quarter of its remaining stake, while still retaining 16.3 percent of the internet giant.

The company’s earnings give it a market capitalization of over US$231 billion, “putting it at the close of the market on Friday September 19,  among the 20 biggest companies by market cap as can be seen from below table.

No. Ticker Company Country Market Cap  P/E Price [USD]
1 AAPL Apple Inc. USA 604.53B 16.31 100.96
2 XOM Exxon Mobil Co. USA 414.18B 12.37 97.12
3 GOOG Google Inc. USA 403.18B 31.23 596.08
4 MSFT Microsoft Co. USA 391.55B 18.07 47.52
5 BRK-A Berkshire Hathaway Inc. USA 347.68B 18.07 212000.00
6 JNJ Johnson & Johnson USA 304.56B 19.96 107.99
7 WFC Wells Fargo & Company USA 278.56B 13.18 53.36
8 GE General Electric Co. USA 263.79B 18.01 26.29
9 ROG.VX Roche Holding AG Switzerland 258.42B 19.70 292.71
10 RDSA.AS Royal Dutch Shell plc Netherlands 255.53B 15.23 78.75
11 NVSN.VX Novartis AG Switzerland 253.73B 23.95 93.90
12 0491.HK China Mobile Limited Hong Kong 250.86B 13.18 61.43
13 WMT Wal-Mart Stores Inc. USA 247.62B 16.08 76.84
14 NESN.VX Nestle SA Switzerland 240.89B 21.30 74.70
15 0857.HK PetroChina Co. Ltd. China 238.952B 11.38 134.51
16 CVX Chevron Corporation USA 236.99B 11.91 124.80
17 BABA Alibaba Group Ltd China 231.90B 300 93.89
18 JPM JPMorgan Chase & Co. USA 229.85B 15.79 61.11
19 PG Procter & Gamble Co. USA 228.65B 21.60 84.47
20 VZ Verizon Communications USA 208.71B 10.69 50.35
21 HSBC HSBC Holdings plc UK 206.84B 13.45 53.95
22 TM Toyota Motor Co. Japan 203.57B 10.94 118.76
23 FB Facebook, Inc. USA 202.56B 84.68 77.91

Above table shows that Alibaba, which became the largest USA IPO, based on its closing price of Friday, September 19, ranked as the world’s 17th biggest company by market capitalization.

Above table proves also that most of the companies in the top 23 table have very high valuation, which due to this can therefore be considered overvalued.


Alibaba IPO goes to the extreme of what we have saw last year with social media stocks IPO, flying high with (almost) no fundamentals to back up their stock price and subsequent market cap.

To those who believe they have to go with the flow and that Alibaba is worth whatever the market says its worth, please indulge us in a little rundown of reasons why Alibaba at current price is overvalued:

  • 300x times current earnings – it takes a lot of real earnings growth to justify such a lofty multiple.
  • Little room for expansion (at least in China) – Anyone who wants to be listed on Alibaba is listed on it. The only real new businesses who sign up for it are new businesses.
  • Little room for increasing share of current customers – Alibaba, for now, serves one purpose: Linking manufacturers and those looking to source in China. Once the two parties hook up, there is no need for Alibaba to continue their business relationship.
  • A Small Moat – The only real thing that Alibaba has going for it is the network effect – there’s nothing special about their brand or the software that runs the site.

As a long term investor we’ve seen similar hypes and crazy behavior of the markets in 1998 and 1999, when Internet and stock with no earnings or intrinsic value, went IPO and rose like a rocket. Back then they called it innovation and New Economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the rule of money is timeless, it has never changed, it is and will always be about, cashflow, earnings intrinsic value and sustainable business model.

And when the hype is over and reality calls, the prices of these so-called high flyers of today will implode bringing them to their real and realistic valuation.

Until next week.

Yours sincerely,

Suriname Times foto

Eric Panneflek

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *