Tomorrow, the next big IPO in techland is taking place; so, what do you know about Alibaba?Ali_Baba_and_the_Forty_Thieves_VideoCover

Surely, Ali Baba is a poor woodcutter who discovers the secret of a thieves’ den, entered with the phrase “Open Sesame“. The thieves learn this, and try to kill Ali Baba. But Ali Baba’s faithful slave-girl foils their plots; Ali Baba gives his son to her in marriage and keeps the secret of the treasure.

Well, let me tell you what the other Alibaba does, EVERYTHING!

In wikipedia-speak, it’s “a family of highly successful Internet-based businesses.” Jack Ma founded the China Yellowopages then in ’99 he founded famously from his bedroom. In short, it’s a champion for SMEs selling to other SMEs. Next he launched Taobao, China’s answer to eBay. And Alipay, an online payment system. And Yahoo! has a business partnership with Alibaba (Yahoo! Mail in China is now called Alimail.)

So let’s put it into perspective: Alibaba has more transactions that eBay and Amazon together.

It’s big.

And I’m sure you saw what happened to Facebook and Google, so you’ll be keen to invest in Alibaba.

Some people (“Some See a Potential Windfall, While Others Cite Problems With Governance”) think the IPO price is high – somewhere between $66 and $68*. And there might be a Facebook-style dip in price – but a year later, I’d guess we’ll be seeing a much higher value. But don’t take my word on that, if I knew what the market will actually do, I’d not be writing this piece!

Clearly it’s not as well known as Facebook or Google (Reuters tells us that 88 percent of Americans haven’t heard of the company) but that’s because it only operates in China right now. It plans to launch in Europe and the US after the IPO.

Facebook: a year to recover…

The shares are expected to be priced after the markets close at 4 p.m. Thursday and start trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday under the ticker “BABA.” And if you want a friendly review of how to buy shares in Alibaba, check out this site,

Otherwise, maybe it’s time to go to Amazon – not – and buy yourself a copy of the Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

* At the top end of that range, the IPO would raise almost $22 billion (13.5 billion pounds), but if underwriters exercise an option to sell more shares, Alibaba’s market debut will top Agricultural Bank of China Ltd’s record $22.1 billion listing in 2010. Source: