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Alibaba races to hit August IPO date

Alibaba.com's headquarters in Hangzhou, China
Thomas Lombard | Wikipedia
Alibaba.com's headquarters in Hangzhou, China

Alibaba is racing against the clock to complete its landmark initial public offering within the next month, according to several people familiar with its plans.

However, the self-imposed deadline is in danger of slipping as the company gets close to the moment when it will have to decide whether to go ahead with an international marketing trip involving its top executives, two of these people said.

The New York listing by the Chinese ecommerce company is widely expected to be one of the largest ever, raising about $20 billion. The largest listing to date is Agricultural Bank of China's $22.1 billion deal from July 2010.

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Alibaba still hopes to begin a marketing trip for the deal, known as a roadshow, as early as July 21. The trip would probably take in investors in at least the US and Hong Kong and would involve several members of the company's top leadership, according to people familiar with the plans.

That would make it possible for Alibaba to hit its preferred date for the IPO, with the shares being officially priced late on August 7 and starting to trade on the New York Stock Exchange the day after.

With time running out to get the roadshow organised, however, that timetable could be missed. The company is still waiting for final approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which vets new listings and has asked for further information about aspects of the company's business before signing off on the deal.

"Everything is so fluid right now, there is no concrete plan," said one person familiar with the process.

Read MoreNYSE to run tests before Alibaba IPO

Even if it fails to hits its preferred timetable, Alibaba still hopes to launch its roadshow before the end of July. That would make it possible for the shares to begin trading by mid-August.

With summer vacations looming, however, there is a risk that many investors will miss out on the marketing campaign for the IPO, dampening demand for the shares.

Google's IPO ten years ago was delayed by last-minute regulatory issues and slipped to August 19, making it one of the few companies to attempt a share sale in the second half of August. Weak demand during the roadshow forced its backers to cut the expected price of the deal and the number of shares they had planned to sell.

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Alibaba had no comment. Spokespeople for the banks managing the sale – Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup – either declined to comment or were unavailable.

In late June, Alibaba said that it would list on the New York Stock Exchange, but the company has not yet provided firm details about the size of the IPO or the price range.