Alibaba’s Hong Kong shares made a solid debut on Tuesday, 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. This has been seen as a vote of confidence in Hong Kong 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. By late morning, 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 ADR is worth eight Hong Kong shares.
The Hong Kong and New York stocks are fungible. This means investors can buy and sell the same shares on either exchange. It also means that pricing on the exchanges are unlikely to diverge too far from each other. UOB Kay Hian sales director Steven Leung said the premium to New York reflected the willingness of investors in the city and Asia to take on the stock of a company they know well. He added that the positive momentum could be tough to maintain.
“The ADS is already considered quite high and now the Hong Kong price is showing a premium. This means the near term upside in Hong Kong could be limited,” he said.
A long time coming
Alibaba’s Hong Kong listing surpassed other large stock sales this year. It ranked ahead of Uber Technologies $8.1 billion IPO and $5.7 billion IPO for Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Asian brewing business in Hong Kong.
At Tuesday’s listing ceremony, chief executive 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. The loss of the listing triggered years of argument and consultations that resulted in rule changes last year. “Thank you Hong Kong and thank you HKEX. Your reform and innovation of the capital markets in the past few years has made it possible for us to realise what we missed five years ago,” Zhang said at the listing ceremony.
Alibaba is the fifth most-traded company in New York this year, averaging $2.6 billion a day, according to Refinitiv.
In its prospectus, Alibaba said it would use the funds raised to increase its investment in online delivery and local services platform Ele.me and in online travel group Fliggy.
Alibaba also plans to spend more on developing Youku, one of the leading online video platforms in China. Small retail investors were enthusiastic buyers of the deal. They subscribed for 40 times the shares they were originally allotted and eventually took 10 percent of the deal.