Alibaba sets its sights on Amazon.
Anyone who is cursed with a rational mind should ponder Alibaba’s faith in eight, the luckiest single digit in China. On November 26th China’s e-commerce juggernaut sold HK$88bn ($11.2bn) of secondary shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange under the stock symbol 9988—88 is not only a homonym for baba, but also signifies double luck.
As soon as the gong was banged to launch trading, the shares soared from HK$176 to the auspicious price of HK$188. Luck was on Alibaba’s side. Nearby Pedder Street, where 19th-century stockbrokers gathered to trade shares, has been a hotspot of anti-China protests since early summer. On occasion, the smell of tear-gas has wafted into the exchange. Yet after a landslide win for pro-democracy parties in local elections earlier in the week, the chaos has—at least temporarily—subsided.
Luck aside, the listing provides the company with triple benefits. It wins brownie points with the Chinese government for demonstrating confidence in Hong Kong’s financial future amid the protests. It partially hedges its exposure to America, where it launched the biggest initial public offering of all time in 2014, but has recently suffered from trade-war related turbulence. And it increases the accessibility of its shares to Asian institutional investors, who may be less inclined to view China through the prism of trade and geopolitical tensions. Soon it may be eligible for Stock Connect schemes that link Hong Kong with markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen, allowing mainland investors to pile in as well.