Yahoo, Softbank Agree To Alibaba’s Restructuring Plans

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In a move to keep control of it’s board, it is looking more and more likely that Limited (HKG:1688) (OTCMKTS:ALBIY) will look to a U.S. IPO rather than listing in Hong Kong. Following talks with the city-state’s stock exchange and regulator the boars seemed unwilling to allow Alibaba’s request for a management structure that would allow its founder Jack Ma and its partners to nominate the majority of directors to its board.

Yahoo, Softbank Agree To Alibaba's Restructuring Plans

Yahoo and Softbank supporting Alibaba

Somewhat surprisingly, two of Limited (HKG:1688) (OTCMKTS:ALBIY)’s biggest shareholders, Softbank Corp (TYO:9984) (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), seem to support Alibaba’s efforts to retain what they have and get what they want. Softbank, the Japanese mobile and Internet service firm that just acquired Sprint, holds 36.7 percent of the Chinese equivalent of eBay Inc (NASDAQ:EBAY); Yahoo holds a 24 percent stake in Alibaba.

Alibaba is looking to make sure that 28 partners in the company will be solely responsible for the nomination of board members, a privilege or power that neither Softbank Corp (TYO:9984) (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) or Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) hold.

Masayoshi Son on Alibaba’s business

In a statement Friday, Softbank Corp (TYO:9984) (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) founder and Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said: “Alibaba has built a phenomenal business and created tremendous value for its shareholders over the years. Limited (HKG:1688) (OTCMKTS:ALBIY)’s special culture is at the heart of its success and preserving it will be very important going forward. We are therefore very supportive of the Alibaba partnership structure.”

Softbank Corp (TYO:9984) (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) was one of Limited (HKG:1688) (OTCMKTS:ALBIY)’s first investors grabbing their stake in 2000, a year after Jack Ma founded the company.

“In a fast-moving technology market, it’s critical that a company’s leadership can continue to preserve its culture and set its strategic course for the future,” said Yahoo chief development officer Jacqueline Reses. “As one of Alibaba’s largest shareholders, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) believes that management’s efforts reflect the desire to govern the company for long-term success while also balancing the rights of shareholders.”

Yahoo’s investment in Alibaba

When Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) first invested in Limited (HKG:1688) (OTCMKTS:ALBIY), it became the company’s largest shareholder. Last year, Alibaba bought back shares of its company from Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), driving the U.S. company’s share to second behind Softbank Corp (TYO:9984) (OTCMKTS:SFTBF). Alibaba had the option to buy back these shares in Yahoo’s stake if the company would go public prior to December 2015 based on the terms of the original investment.

Jack Ma on Alibaba’s partnership structure

In a letter to employees earlier this month, Mr. Ma explained why Alibaba’s partners – including Mr. Ma – need to maintain control over the company’s long-term strategic direction.

“We believe that only a group of people who are passionate about the company and are mission-driven will be able to protect the company from external pressure from competition and temptation to seek short-term gains,” Mr. Ma said.

It’s expected that Limited (HKG:1688) (OTCMKTS:ALBIY)’s IPO will value the company around $70 billion making it the largest tech IPO since Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) went public.

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