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Alibaba opens doors to new path with delisting

Alibaba is quietly moving out of the Hong Kong stock exchange today as a private company, less than five years after its frenzied, high-profile initial public offering.

The company, the world's largest business-to-business e-commerce services provider, will withdraw the listing of its shares from the exchange at 4pm after recently completing its privatisation.

Senior executives would not make any formal comments about today's transition, which a spokeswoman described as 'a mechanical finish based on the calendar we established when we rolled out this privatisation plan' in February.

But Jack Ma Yun, the chairman and chief executive of parent company Alibaba Group, offered a more philosophical spin on the situation earlier this year. 'Just as the IPO was a starting point for and not the finish line, [the] privatisation is not the end but rather a new beginning,' Ma had said in an internal e-mail sent in February to the group's 25,000-odd staff worldwide. aims to advance sweeping reforms of its operations after going private to improve the way it serves customers.

'This business upgrade will involve broad, complex and large-scale mechanisms, and will undoubtedly have a significant impact on's profitability over the next few years,' Ma said. spokeswoman Julie Huang Tsang said undertaking that long process was 'one of the reasons we wanted to privatise'.

Privately held Alibaba proposed in February to use cash to buy the 27 per cent minority shares in that it did not own, for HK$13.50 a share - a total consideration of about HK$19.6 billion. That deal was approved by independent shareholders last month and sanctioned this month by the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands, where Alibaba and its subsidiary were incorporated., which Ma started out of his home in Hangzhou in 1999, operates in more than 240 markets and had 79.8 million users worldwide as of the end of March.

It connects small- and medium-sized businesses that have little or no marketing budgets with buyers through vast trading websites.

The online trading giant's financial results have been weighed down in the past few quarters by continued market volatility due to global economic uncertainties.

Its HK$13.44 share price yesterday put its market capitalisation at HK$67.28 billion.

During its first six years of operation, easily attracted well-heeled investors, who gave it funds to help grow its business. In August 2005, Yahoo paid US$1 billion for a 40 per cent stake in the company.

Less than two years after that big score, unveiled its IPO plan in Hong Kong. The firm attracted more than 560,000 Hong Kong retail investors, who placed HK$33.1 billion worth of orders, representing 257 times the 128 million shares in its offering.

On its first day of trading in November 6, 2007,'s shares opened at HK$30, more than double the HK$13.50 issue price. The buying became so frenzied and the weight of orders so heavy that the Hong Kong stock exchange's trading system was overwhelmed, causing delays in execution.

The company's shares rose more than 192 per cent that day to close at HK$39.50, and became the most successful listing debut that year.