By Elzio Barreto and Fiona Lau
Alibaba Group plans to increase the size of its U.S. initial public offering because of "overwhelming" investor demand, people familiar with the deal said Monday.
The Chinese e-commerce company launched the IPO last week and had enough investor demand to cover the entire deal within two days, people familiar with the process said last week.
Alibaba could set a new record for the world's biggest IPO if underwriters exercise an option to sell additional shares to meet demand, pushing it as high as $24.3 billion and overtaking Agricultural Bank of China Ltd.'s $22.1 billion listing in 2010.
The company and some shareholders offered 320.1 million American depositary shares at a $60-$66 a share indicative range. Alibaba will likely file an amendment to its IPO later Monday with a higher price range after discussing the new price with large U.S. mutual funds and institutional investors, one of the people said.
"Demand has been overwhelming since the launch," said the person, who couldn't be named because details of the IPO aren't yet public. "Increasing the price range was already on the cards from the beginning."
Bloomberg earlier reported that Alibaba plans to increase the top end of the price range to above $70.
Alibaba spokeswoman Florence Shih declined to comment on the size of the IPO being raised.
Reuters reported on Friday that Alibaba plans to close its IPO order book early after it received enough orders to sell all the shares in the record-breaking offering.
Alibaba plans to expand its business in the United States and Europe after the much anticipated IPO, billionaire founder Jack Ma said on Monday as the Chinese e-commerce titan pitched its record deal to investors in Asia.
"After being listed in the U.S., we will develop our business in Europe and in the U.S.," Ma told a packed group of journalists ahead of his presentation to investors. "We will not give up the Asia market because, as I would say, we are not a company from China, we are an Internet company that happened to be in China."
The investor luncheon took place in a huge events room at the luxury Ritz Carlton hotel. The hotel is on the same building as three of the main bookrunners of the IPO, just an elevator ride away from Credit Suisse (CS), Deutsche Bank (DB) and Morgan Stanley (MS) offices, across the harbor from the city's financial center.
Fund managers and analysts were given orange bracelets to give them access to the banquet of smoked salmon, chicken breast and mango pudding. The event had two videos and a question and answer session with Ma answering most of the questions, according to investors at the presentation.
Alibaba picked New York for its IPO after Hong Kong officials rejected its request to allow a small group of company insiders to nominate the majority of its board.
The request went against Hong Kong's "one share, one vote" principle, which has been staunchly defended by its securities regulator.
Ma, who is also Alibaba's executive chairman, said that the missed opportunity came about in part because of how Alibaba communicated its plans to local authorities, mirroring statements he gave last year.
"People say that Hong Kong lost the Alibaba deal. To me, I think it is Alibaba that missed this great opportunity to list in Hong Kong," Ma added. "We love Hong Kong. We will continue to love Hong Kong and invest in Hong Kong."
The company launched its IPO last week and is expected to price the deal on Sept. 18. It will start trading a day later.
-With additional reporting by Supriya Kurane.
By Elzio Barreto and Fiona Lau