June 26, 2014, 4:43 PM

Alibaba will trade under stock symbol BABA

The Chinese e-commerce giant is expecting to go public in the next few months.

Lead Photo

Jack Ma, founder and chairman, Alibaba

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol “BABA.” The disclosure came this week in an update to the company’s initial public offering filing.

Alibaba officially filed for an IPO in May and said it will raise $1 billion, though preliminary filings often include a placeholder figure. The actual amount to be raised will be disclosed later, and analysts have estimated the company could sell $15-20 billion worth of shares.

While Alibaba did not comment on why it chose BABA as a ticker symbol, it likely has to with the word "ba" in Chinese meaning both the number 8, a lucky number in China, and fortune, wealth or prosperity, says Jim Tompkins, CEO of supply chain consulting firm Tompkins International. "To go from '8' to '88' or from BA to BABA, one needs to grasp the Chinese saying 'Good things come in pairs,'" Tompkins says. "So '8' is good, but '88' is double good, and the same for 'BA' and 'BABA.' The name of the firm is not AliBA, but rather AliBABA. In fact, many flights to and from China have the number 8, 88, 888, etc. The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics was on 8/8/08. Telephone numbers with the number 8 are valued as are the 88th floor of buildings. Probably the most seen 88 however is in the price of things. In the U.S. we often see "9" in the cost of items as in  $5.99, $99.99, $139.99, etc, but in China you see $5.88, $88.88,$138.88, etc."

Nor is Tompkins surprised Alibba and its founder and chairman Jack Ma chose the New York Stock Exchange over NASDAQ, the other exchange competing to sell Alibaba's shares. "Jack Ma has had a passion for everything American since he was a boy. Now at 49 he is approaching one of his 'American dreams' of going public in the U.S.," he says. "The New York Stock Exchange is the largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalization and also more 'American.'" He adds that Alibaba may have been leery of listing on NASDAQ, given the well-publicized problems Facebook Inc. had with its IPO on NASDAQ in 2012.

In the filing, Alibaba says it will go public “as soon as practicable,” and observers expect the company will offer its shares in the next few months.

The filing also said the gross merchandise value on its three online marketplaces in China, which are the largest in that country, totaled $248 billion in 2013. The company says it has 231 million active customers who purchased on average 49 times in 2013, up from 39 times a year earlier.


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