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Alibaba plans up to US$8b bond offering

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Alibaba's likely mega bond offering will test global investors' appetite for the first time since Beijing launched an antitrust investigation into the company co-founded by beleaguered billionaire Jack Ma.

Singapore

ALIBABA Group Holding Ltd intends to raise as much as US$8 billion via a US dollar bond sale as early as next week, matching its own Chinese record for a single issuance of offshore corporate debt, people familiar with the plans said.

The e-commerce giant aims to raise at least US$5 billion but could wind up with more depending on reception, said the people who aren't authorised to speak publicly and asked not to be identified. The deal will be a multi-tranche offering, with specific tenors yet to be determined, they said. Reuters first reported the news earlier on Wednesday.

Alibaba tapped the global debt market in 2014 for the first time to raise US$8 billion - a record that still stands - shortly after its landmark New York stock debut. It last came to the offshore market with a bumper US$7 billion bond deal in 2017 and needs to repay or refinance some US$1.5 billion of dollar debt which comes due this year, Bloomberg-compiled data show.

The upcoming likely mega offering will test global investors' appetite for the first time since Beijing launched an antitrust investigation into the company co-founded by beleaguered billionaire Jack Ma. It also comes as its revenue grew at its slowest pace on record for a September quarter, underscoring how the e-commerce giant's post-pandemic rebound is starting to plateau.

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"We view the issuance as somewhat exploratory given the broader uncertainty around Ant/Jack Ma. It may well reveal how seriously global investors perceive the rapidly evolving regulatory environment in China and the potential impact on Alibaba," said Zhou Chuanyi, a credit analyst at Lucror Analytics in Singapore. Mr Zhou was referring to Ant Group Co, the financial-technology juggernaut also co-founded by Mr Ma that saw its planned US$35 billion initial public offering halted by Chinese regulators in November.

Alibaba declined to comment.

The company, which sat on a cash hoard of almost US$90 billion at the end of September, has in recent years spent billions acquiring stakes in promising startups, expanding its logistics network and cloud-hosting services, and building up an international business via Singapore-based online mall Lazada.

It is now engaged in a bruising battle with Meituan in food delivery, while fending off rivals like JD.com Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd in businesses from groceries to retail. BLOOMBERG

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