Alibaba pre-IPO roadshow off to a hot start

To prepare for what observers believe will be the largest technology IPO in history, Alibaba is in the midst of a 100-meeting roadshow.

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba kicked off its 10-day roadshow to communicate with potential investors ahead of its highly anticipated IPO, set to take place later this month. According to Reuters, it’s off to a successful start.

Alibaba’s roadshow, which will consist of about 100 meetings worldwide, started early Monday at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. By Tuesday’s end, it had received enough orders to cover the IPO after less than two days of the process.  

A spokesperson from Alibaba declined to comment on the company’s communications strategy for the roadshow, but confirmed that Sard Verbinnen & Co. and Brunswick Group are supporting the company with the event.

The company, often described as the Chinese version of eBay, did not promote the event via press release at the time of publication. Nor did it use its social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, to raise awareness of the initiative as of Monday afternoon.

Yet it did create a video and digital prospectus, though it was not immediately clear when they became available to the public.

Founder and executive chairman Jack Ma has emphasized that the company is a champion for the little guy, specifically customers and small merchants, in the video.

The video also provides facts and figures about the state of the company and its plans for the future. Topics covered include: how Alibaba has impacted China; an introduction to the company from CEO Jonathan Lu; a segment about Alibaba’s three Chinese online retail marketplaces: Taobao, TMall, and Juhuasuan. It also explains Ali Express, Alibaba's cross-border retail marketplace, and Alibaba.com.

The company wants to get away from the format of other roadshows, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. For instance, investors felt that Facebook’s 2012 roadshow, which initially featured a 30-minute video, did not leave enough time for questions. Its presentation was swiftly modified.

As part of its show, Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan introduced Alibaba, followed by an open-ended Q&A session.

For "schmoozing" the investors, the Journal reported that Alibaba formed two groups of bankers and executives: The orange team, led by vice chairman Joe Tsai and CEO Jonathan Lu; and the red team, headed by CFO Maggie Wu and COO Daniel Zhang. The teams, named after the company’s logo colors, are supported by representatives of the banks underwriting the IPO: Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Citigroup.

Attendees of the roadshow tweeted images from the events – seemingly filled to the rafters with potential investors – earlier this week.

The roadshow has planned stops in Boston, Baltimore, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles before heading to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and potentially the Middle East.

The stock will be priced on the roadshow’s final evening, September 18, and Alibaba will begin trading the next day on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "BABA."

The company has also been building its corporate affairs team. In August, it hired Robert Christie as VP of international media, Jennifer Kuperman as VP of strategy and planning, and Greg Jenkins as a director.

They report to Jim Wilkinson, Alibaba’s SVP and head of international corporate affairs and a former PepsiCo communications EVP and top Treasury Department aide. He joined the company in May.

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