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Alibaba Issues Record $4.5 Billion Convertibles to Fund Buybacks

(Bloomberg) — Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. sold $4.5 billion worth of convertible bonds, a record dollar-denominated sale by an Asian company, securing the capital needed to buy back shares and invest in businesses such as artificial intelligence.

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The Chinese e-commerce pioneer priced the notes due 2031 with a 0.5% coupon and a 30% conversion premium. Orders for the bonds were repeatedly oversubscribed, in response to demand from investors around the world, a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential.

Alibaba is taking advantage of cheap financing costs as well as a sharp rise in its shares to raise funds, analysts say. The company needs funds to invest in its core and cloud businesses, both of which lost market share during Chinese authorities’ crackdown on the sector and subsequent internal unrest. At the same time, the sell-off indicates that the stock is seriously undervalued.

A portion of the proceeds from the offering will be used to repurchase 14.8 million of its American depositary receipts at the time the transaction is priced, as well as to fund future repurchases, Alibaba said in a statement.

“The move is an opportunity to obtain overseas liquidity on favorable terms, at a rate of 0.5%,” said John Choi, an analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets Hong Kong Ltd. “This way, they can immediately begin executing a stock buyback, which the company can say is more beneficial to shareholders as the buyback will be greater than the dilution.

Read more: Alibaba’s $25 billion buyout fails to appease investors

Convertible bonds allow companies to borrow funds at lower rates than typical market borrowing, although such offerings can harm the issuer’s stock price due to the possibility that the debt will be converted into actions. However, with Alibaba’s recent rise in ADRs, the negative effects of dilution on the stock price may be less of a problem for investors, analysts say.

Alibaba’s offering is the largest dollar-denominated equity-linked debt issue ever by an Asian company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That dwarfs a $2.9 billion issue of five-year notes by Singapore’s Sea Ltd. in September 2021, according to the data.

Lockdown

Shares of Chinese technology companies have rebounded since February, as the government signaled increased support for the sector while cheap valuations attracted investors. Alibaba’s sale comes after rival online retailer JD.com Inc. earlier in the week sold a total of $2 billion in convertible bonds due in five years.

Tech companies are trying to “lock up U.S. dollars overseas to maintain the flexibility to do stock buybacks while investing overseas,” said Gary Tan, portfolio manager at Allspring Intrinsic Emerging Markets Equity. “We are somewhat disappointed by the low conversion premium which may suggest that Alibaba’s transformation to return to growth is taking longer than expected.”

Newly installed executives at Hangzhou-based Alibaba have been signaling to the market for months that they view their company as seriously undervalued — and, in some cases, putting their money where their mouth is. Co-founder Jack Ma and his longtime lieutenant Joe Tsai – who returned to lead the company in September – bought Alibaba shares for the first time in years in early 2024.

Its ADRs jumped nearly 29% in the month to May 17. The stock came under pressure this week after the company led the way in cutting prices on some cloud computing and artificial intelligence services, sparking concerns about a price war in the nascent AI market in China.

ADRs closed down 2.3% at $80.80 on Thursday. Hong Kong-listed shares of Alibaba were down 0.6% on Friday afternoon.

The company seeks to balance returning cash with investment in existing and new businesses, including in the area of ​​artificial intelligence, Tsai and CEO Eddie Wu said in a letter to shareholders on Thursday.

What Bloomberg Intelligence says:

Alibaba’s convertible bond offering could increase scrutiny over changes to its plans for a primary listing in Hong Kong by the end of August and the timetable for achieving a double-digit return on invested capital. The company’s intention to use bond proceeds to buy stock was more focused than JD.com’s. — analysts Catherine Lim and Trini Tan.

Tsai and Wu are now reinvesting in Alibaba’s core business, even as it tries to reclaim its cloud services market share from state-backed rivals such as China Telecom Corp. the burgeoning field of AI – a market in which no company can claim to have an unassailable lead.

Just this week, the company announced its expansion into Mexico for the first time, while also unveiling a plan to build at least six data centers in key markets including Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea , over the next three years.

Alibaba’s convertible bonds were marketed with an annual coupon of 0.25% to 0.75% and a conversion premium of 30% to 35%, according to the terms of the deal reviewed earlier by Bloomberg News.

The offering — which the company said included a so-called green shoe option that could increase the deal size by $500 million — adds to an already busy month for convertible bond issuance. Globally, the amount of such transactions reached $10.2 billion this month, eclipsing the $4 billion recorded in April, after a pause for the earnings season interrupted a streak of more of $10 billion for several months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Alibaba’s offering is expected to close on May 29, the company said. Holders of convertible bonds may ask it to repurchase all or part of their bonds on June 1, 2029.

Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Barclays Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc helped close the deal, according to terms previously viewed by Bloomberg News.

–With help from Charlotte Yang, Jeanny Yu, Ken Wang, Edwin Chan and Xi Wang.

(Recast throughout.)

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Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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