Stock sale places the company in the ranks of the most valuable Internet properties.
Updated at 11:55 a.m. ET Friday
Shares of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba BABA began trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday after pricing at $68 a piece last night, launching the biggest IPO in U.S. history.
Shares in Alibaba opened significantly higher, at $92.70, on their debut Friday morning.
The stock offering is expected to raise at least $21.8 billion. However, David Ethridge, head of capital markets for the NYSE, was optimistic that underwriters would make use of an overallotment option, which is called a “green shoe,” meaning more shares of the company could be sold. That would push Alibaba’s IPO over $25 billion, making it the biggest in history.
The stock sale places the company in the ranks of the most valuable Internet companies with a market capitalization that peaked Friday at over $240 billion, exceeding industry standard bearers like Amazon AMZN , Facebook FB and Twitter TWTR . It also puts an exclamation point on China’s rapid rise in the technology industry and its growing ambitions overseas including in the United States.
The Hangzhou, China-based company has started trading on the NYSE under the ticker BABA.
The opening of trading was approached with some caution by the NYSE, however, as Alibaba seeks to avoid a Facebook-style shock.
Alibaba, essentially China’s version of eBay, had initially expected its shares to sell for $60 to $66 in the IPO. But earlier this week, following strong investor demand, it raised the high-end of its expected price range to $68.
Visa previously held the title as the biggest U.S. IPO at $17.9 billion. The worldwide IPO record is held by Agricultural Bank of China, which raised $24.3 billion when it went public in Hong Kong in 2010.
At its offering price, Alibaba’s market value of $168 billion makes it the highest-valued internet company at the time of its public debut. Facebook FB was worth $104 billion when it IPO-ed in 2012, and Google GOOG was valued at $23 billion in 2004.
Alibaba was co-founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, a former English teacher who has become one of China’s best-known businessmen. The company started as an online marketplace for businesses to sell products to one another but quickly expanded into consumer sales and online payments. Alibaba is now a global hub for selling everything from electronic parts to engines to stuffed animals. It also has a growing portfolio of U.S. investments including ShopRunner, an online delivery service, and ride-hailing app Lyft.
Alibaba is keeping nearly $8.3 billion of the IPO proceeds. A long list of insiders and early investors are also cashing out including Ma, who will make around $900 million, and Yahoo, which sold about a quarter of its stake for more than $8 billion.
Alibaba enters the market during a stellar year for technology stocks. The Dow Jones Internet Composite Index is up 15.6% over the past 12 months compared to a 9.9% rise for the overall Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Investors are hoping Alibaba can continue to ride this wave to even higher stock gains after its debut.