On Friday, Twitter's management team goes on the road to promote its highly anticipated Nov. 15 listing on the New York Stock Exchange. But the 8-year-old Internet messaging company's long-awaited IPO is already being overshadowed by a bigger public offering that hasn't yet been formally announced.
Sometime after Twitter's moment in the Wall Street spotlight,it's expected billionaire Jack Ma will step to the podium in New York to ring the bell heralding his Alibaba Group Holding's listing in New York, the biggest U.S. IPO for a Chinese technology company, and one that dwarfs Twitter in size, revenue—and significance. "Alibaba is a one-time thing," said Benjamin Joffe, an angel investor and founder of Asia-focused consultancy Plus8Star in Beijing. "How often do you list a $100 billion company?"
(Read more: Alibaba gets clearance to list in the US)
Alibaba, an e-commerce platform in mainland China that includes features of Amazon, eBay and hosting sites for small businesses, could reach revenue of $5 billion this year and $1 billion in profits. Alibaba CEO Jonathan Lu said recently the company expects to triple the volume of transactions on its marketplaces to about 3 trillion yuan ($490 billion) by 2016, overtaking Wal-Mart as the world's biggest retail network. Analysts have estimated it will raise $10 billion to $15 billion in its IPO that should happen in the first quarter of next year and value Alibaba at as much as $100 billion. That would make it the biggest IPO since Facebook's debut last year.
By contrast, Twitter is looking to raise $1 billion at a valuation of $10 billion to $15 billion. Twitter's first disclosure on the way to an IPO reported $422 million in revenue through Sept. 30, up 106 percent—and a net loss of $134 million, also up 89 percent.
(Read more: Twitter quits dog IPO)
Battle of the exchanges
Alibaba's IPO will be the culmination of a fierce behind-the-scenes battle among the world's stock markets for the right to take the Chinese e-commerce giant public. Whether Alibaba goes with the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, stock markets in London and Hong Kong will lose out on an IPO that could value Alibaba at $100 billion, raise as much as $20 billion, and deliver millions of dollars in fees to bankers, brokers, and attorneys. "It's a pretty competitive landscape out there," conceded Alistair Walmsley, head of primary markets at the London Stock Exchange Group, which has not been in the running for the Alibaba listing.