Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba on Friday filed to sell up to $24.3 billion in stock, making it the biggest U.S. initial public offering ever. The company is expected set its initial share price at between $60 and $66, according to a regulatory filing Friday. At $66 per share, Alibaba would debut with a market value of $163 billion. That's more than all but a handful of technology companies that have been around for much longer than Alibaba, which Jack Ma started 15 years ago in his apartment. Some industry analysts had expected the company to try to garner a valuation north of $200 billion, ranking the Chinese company among the 20 largest publicly traded U.S. companies. At $24.3 billion, the Alibaba IPO would eclipse the $17.8 billion raised by Visa in 2008 and the $16 billion Facebook raised in 20012, according to Renaissance Capital. Alibaba accounts for about 80 percent of all online retail sales in China, where rising Internet usage and an expanding middle-class helped the company generate gross merchandise volume of $296 billion in the 12 months ended June 30.
Earlier Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the firm would allow its employees and others close to the company to purchase shares at their IPO price before the stock begins public trading on the NYSE, a privilege typically only made available to professional investors and a limited amount of individual investors. The company's roadshow, an effort to woo investors, will begin on Monday in New York City and visit a dozen cities before ending back in Manhattan on Sept. 18.