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Alibaba prices IPO at $68 a share

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba priced its U.S. initial public offering for $68 per share—at the top of the expected range.

Alibaba, which not only dominates the market in its home country but also has designs to expand aggressively abroad, is expected to begin trading at the New York Stock Exchange Friday morning under the ticker BABA.

If Alibaba's offering plans have not changed, a $68 per share IPO will have raised $21.77 billion and valued the company at $167.62 billion.

Read More Live blog: Alibaba, the biggest IPO ever

The meeting of underwriters and Alibaba executives took place at Citigroup, sources tell CNBC. All told, the meeting lasted about 45 minutes, and the discussion was about the company's future, not the IPO prices, sources said.

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son and Yahoo Chief Development Officer Jackie Reses were special guests at this meeting, sources said, and they both gave speeches about the company's commitment to long-term shareholder value.

Slated to be the largest IPO in world history, Alibaba's offering has been compared to Facebook's, which was mired by technological and filing hiccups that saw the price initially fall.

Read MoreAlibaba's first day: Why it's likely to steal the show and keep it

The firm was expected to price within a range of $66 to $68, with advisors recommending $68.

Here are the largest IPOs in history:

Rank Company Name Offer Date Exchange Industry Underwriter Deal Size (US$MM)
1 Alibaba Group Holding 9/19/2014 NYSE Technology Credit Suisse $21,766
2 ABC Bank 7/7/2010 Hong Kong / Shanghai Financial Goldman Sachs (Asia) $19,228
3 ICBC Bank 10/20/2006 Hong Kong / Shanghai Financial Merrill Lynch $19,092
4 NTT Mobile 10/22/1998 Tokyo Stock Exchange Communications Goldman Sachs (Asia) $18,099
5 Visa 3/18/2008 NYSE Technology J.P. Morgan $17,864
6 AIA 10/21/2010 Hong Kong Financial Citi $17,816
7 ENEL SpA 11/1/1999 NYSE Utilities Merrill Lynch $16,452
8 Facebook 5/17/2012 NASDAQ Technology Morgan Stanley $16,007
9 General Motors 11/17/2010 NYSE Capital Goods & Services Morgan Stanley $15,774
10 Nippon Tel 2/9/1987 Tokyo Stock Exchange Communications Nomura Securities $15,301
Source: Renaissance Capital
Note: Alibaba deal size estimated

Still, traders are watching the stock closely, as there are several unusual characteristics of Friday's expected IPO. Chief among them, the U.S.-listed shares won't actually correlate to a stake in Alibaba—instead, the stock will be tied to a Cayman Islands-based holding company connected to Alibaba's profits.

Originally an English teacher who failed the college entrance exam twice, Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma founded Alibaba in 1999.

Picking up on the e-commerce model pioneered by eBay, Alibaba offers two platforms for Chinese Internet retail: Tmall and Taobao. Tmall offers goods from official brand retailers, while Taobao is a platform for individual sellers. Both websites have been the center of counterfeiting complaints. However, the combined sales of both sites on China's Singles' Day (November 11) grew 20 percent in 2013 at $5.7 billion.

A few months ago, Alibaba launched a similar e-commerce site in the United States called 11Main.

Many attribute Alibaba's early success in dominating the Chinese markets to Ma's secure payments system Alipay, which was recently spun off from Alibaba Group.

Read MoreThree things that could go wrong with Alibaba IPO

Analysts have been concerned that Alibaba lacks a strong mobile platform, especially given the inroads of Chinese competitor Tencent with its highly popular QQ and WeChat messaging systems. However, Alibaba reported that 32 percent of total sales were from mobile in the second quarter, up from less than 20 percent in the first. The tech conglomerate has also taken large stakes in domestic and international mobile firms.

U.S. markets rose Thursday, and some traders pointed in part to the "Alibaba effect," theorizing that those who are not getting as much Alibaba stock as they had saved up for, are putting their money back into the market.

Yahoo is expected to sell 27 percent of its stake in Alibaba on Friday and retain a 16 percent holding.

After the filing was first reported, Yahoo shares jumped about 31 cents in after hours trading.

Read MoreAlibaba lone bright spot in Yahoo's dark decade

—By CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld and Evelyn Cheng