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Alibaba: The Most Watched IPO Since Facebook Makes It Official

Ecommerce behemoth Alibaba reports staggering revenue and profit growth in run up to its public offering.

Ecommerce behemoth Alibaba filed its IPO papers Tuesday.

In so doing, the Chinese company, which touches about 80 percent of all ecommerce transactions in the world's most populous country, draws back the curtain on one of the largest initial public offerings in history. Following the IPO, which is expected to rival Facebook's $16 billion IPO two years ago, Alibaba will be valued between $150 and $250 billion, and will rank behind Google, Amazon and Microsoft as one of the largest technology companies in the world.

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Alibaba, which was founded by entrepreneur Jack Ma, says it plans to raise $1 billion in its offering, and it will be listed on the the New York Stock Exchange. Its ticker was not listed in the company's initial offering documents. It also neglected to disclose the price range it's seeking for its shares.

The company reported profits of $3 billion on $6.5 billion in revenue for the nine months ended Dec. 31, 2013. That compares to $712 million in profit on $4.2 billion in revenue for the same period a year earlier and an increase of more than 300 percent for profits and 55 percent for revenue.

For the full-year ended March 31, 2013, Alibaba reported $1.4 billion in profit, an increase of 85 percent over the same time period a year earlier. That's on revenue of $5.6 billion, an increase of 72 percent compared to March 31, 2012.

The company isn't without its risks, however. In its F-1, a form that foreign companies file when they plan to go public in the U.S. and which is comparable to the S-1 U.S. companies file, Alibaba lists reliability and security of its technology platform as a concern. The company also mentions its ability to maintain a strong "ecosystem," driven by a network effect between buyers, sellers and other network participants, as well as its ability to maintain products and services for multiple Internet platforms, including for mobile devices.

"An increasing percentage of our users are accessing our marketplaces through mobile devices, a trend that we expect to continue. Our ability to monetize our mobile user traffic is critical to our business and our growth. We face a number of challenges to successfully monetizing our mobile user traffic," Alibaba said in its F-1.

U.S. tech company Yahoo owns a 24 percent stake in Alibaba.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: May 7, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER | Staff Writer | Staff Writer, Inc. and

Jeremy Quittner is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.

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