Fri, Feb 10, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Alibaba suspends share trade, to clarify deal on parent’s plan to buy Yahoo stake

Bloomberg

Alibaba.com Ltd (阿里巴巴) yesterday suspended its shares from trading in Hong Kong as the company prepared a statement about a transaction involving its parent, which is raising about US$3 billion to buy back stock held by Yahoo Inc.

The statement, to address speculation about an unspecified deal involving the parent, may be “potentially price sensitive,” Alibaba.com said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China’s biggest e-commerce company, owns more than 70 percent of Alibaba.com.

Parent Alibaba Group wants to finalize terms of a loan of about US$3 billion by the end of this week for a potential buyback of shares held by Yahoo, a person familiar with the matter said this week.

Yahoo said on Feb. 7 it was “devoting significant resources” to talks that might lead to the sale of its Asian assets, valued at more than US$10 billion.

“The suspension indicates the discussions on the transaction with Yahoo have reached a certain stage,” said Kelvin Ho (何景行), who rates Alibaba.com shares “hold” at Yuanta Securities (元大證券) in Hong Kong. “The likelihood of a deal has increased.”

Shares of Alibaba.com rose 5.5 percent in Hong Kong on Wednesday, the most since Nov. 22.

Yahoo is the biggest shareholder in closely held Alibaba Group, with a stake of about 40 percent, and sold its stake in Alibaba.com in 2009.

Yahoo this week added two new board members and said chairman Roy Bostock is among five directors who won’t stand for re-election this year.

The shakeup may prompt an increased effort by Yahoo to sell its Asian investments, which include stakes in Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan Corp, Herman Leung, an analyst with Susquehanna International Group in San Francisco, has said.

The value of those assets is about US$11.5 billion, said Sameet Sinha, an analyst at B Riley & Co in San Francisco. The current board may aim to announce a deal to sell the assets before Yahoo’s annual shareholders’ meeting, he said.

Shares of Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo fell 0.3 percent to US$15.78 in New York on Wednesday.

Yahoo is considering cutting its stake in Alibaba Group to about 15 percent, two people briefed on the matter told Bloomberg News in December.

Bostock’s departure came a few weeks after co-founder Jerry Yang (楊致遠) severed ties with Yahoo, including leaving the boards of Yahoo Japan and Alibaba Group. Last month, Yahoo hired Scott Thompson as CEO to replace Carol Bartz, who was ousted in September.

Alibaba stepped up efforts to buy back the stake after the departure of Bartz, who had opposed a sale.

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