Alibaba files for $1 billion IPO

May 7, 2014, 12:41 AM UTC

FORTUNE — Chinese Internet company Alibaba today filed for a $1 billion IPO. It is likely that the actual offering amount will be significantly higher, and that this only will be a placeholder. For example, Facebook (FB) originally filed to raise $5 billion and ended up with $16 billion. In fact, there have been some suggestions that this will become the largest IPO of all time, or at least the largest tech IPO of all time.

It plans to trade on either the NYSE or NASDAQ, but did not disclose a ticker symbol. Credit Suisse (CS) is left-lead underwriter, with five other banks also listed. None of the banks are based in Asia, or are Asian affiliates of non-Asian banks.

Here are the company’s top-line numbers, for the nine months ending Dec. 31, 2013:

  • Revenue: $6.5 billion
  • Cost of revenue: $1.6 billion
  • Net income: $2.85 billion
  • Adjusted EBITDA: $3.8 billion

There is no listed breakdown of individual business group or product financials. There also are no Q1 numbers, which is surprising for a May 6 filing.

In terms of shareholders, Alibaba reports that Softbank holds a 34.4% pre-IPO position, while Yahoo (YHOO) holds 22.6%. Company chairman Jack Ma holds 8.9%. Executive vice chairman Joseph Tsai holds 3.6%. Based on last year’s stock repurchase agreement with Yahoo, Alibaba can force the Silicon Valley company to sell 208 million ordinary shares either via the IPO, representing 39.7% of its remaining position.

One big question about Alibaba is its future relationship with Alipay, the Paypal-like digital payments service that the company spun off in 2011 to an entity controlled by Jack Ma. There have been news reports that Alibaba is planning to reabsorb the company, but there is no mention of those plans in the IPO filing.

Alibaba only lists four directors: Ma, Tsei, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son and Yahoo’s Jacqueline Reses, who will step down when the company goes public. Or, put another way, a three-man board without any independence.

RELATED: How Yahoo got a piece of Alibaba

Expect that more information on the deal size and Alipay will come in subsequent filings. It’s worth noting that Alibaba is too large a company to file its original IPO documentation confidentially via the JOBS Act, so its upcoming amendments may be meatier than those of other recent tech issuers. In the interim, here is a list of the 10 largest global IPOs of all-time, and the 10 largest U.S.-listed IPOs of all time. For Alibaba to top the second list, it needs to top Visa’s (V) $19.6 billion offering from 2008.

There also have been some suggestions that Alibaba’s IPO will be some sort of global investor referendum on the Chinese tech market, and that a successful listing will have coat-tails for smaller peers. Only time will tell, of course, but there would seem to be a better chance that Alibaba is an outlier rather than a trend-setter. Kind of like Google (GOOG) when it went public in 2004.

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