Founded about 14 years ago, Alibaba is still a privately held company. But that may change this year. According to Bloomberg, it looks like the giant Chinese e-commerce company has hired Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) as lead investment bankers.
If there is an IPO, it will likely be on the Hong Kong exchange and could result in a capital raise of $3 billion to $4 billion, giving Alibaba a market cap over $40 billion. Yes, it would be in the Internet big leagues with companies like eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).
Signs of IPO preparation are already popping up at Alibaba. Just yesterday, co-founder and CEO Jack Ma announced he will step down in early May (he’ll take the role of executive chairman). It looks like he wants to bolster the senior management team.
The timing for a deal also appears good. Keep in mind that the Hang Seng index is up about 22% over the past six months. Besides, Alibaba is a top brand in China and has assets that span mega-markets like e-commerce, auctions and online payments. In fact, for the first nine months of 2012, revenues surged by 74% to $2.9 billion, and profits more than tripled to $781.7 million.
An IPO would also be good news for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), which has a 20% stake in Alibaba. Perhaps this is one reason Yahoo’s shares have been rising lately, up 27% over the past six months.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He is also the author of “How to Create the Next Facebook” and “High-Profit IPO Strategies: Finding Breakout IPOs for Investors and Traders.” Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.