The Alibaba Group's initial public offering was long expected to be a blockbuster. But a flood of orders for shares in the Chinese e-commerce giant has proved stronger than expected.
Only five days into the company's global journey to promote itself to prospective buyers, its underwriters have told their sales staffs that they plan to close orders for the stock sale by Wednesday, people briefed on the matter said on Friday.
And with that intense interest — shown by the huge lines of investors who waited to spend even an hour with Alibaba's senior management — comes the possibility that the company's bankers may eventually raise the price range for the offering, pushing it past a fund-raising goal of $21.1 billion.
That could make Alibaba the biggest initial offering in history, surpassing the $22.1 billion that the Agricultural Bank of China raised four years ago. But the people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, cautioned that no plans had been set and that the price range might remain within the already disclosed $60 to $66 a share, which values the company at roughly $163 billion at the high end.
A final decision will be made next Thursday, when underwriters are expected to price the offering after examining its order book. Alibaba would then begin trading the next day on the New York Stock Exchange.
Driving any possible bump in price is strong demand from investors eager to buy a piece of China's biggest e-commerce operator. Alibaba, which is an amalgam of eBay, Amazon and Google, has positioned itself as a gateway to a Chinese population that is increasingly and quickly going online to shop, reaping huge growth in profits and margins along the way.