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China's leading B2B platform delisted

(Xinhua)

08:22, June 21, 2012

HANGZHOU, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Alibaba.com, a leading business-to-business website of the Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group, was delisted from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Wednesday.
The withdrawal of the listing, signaling privatization of the group's only publicly traded subsidiary, took effect at 4 pm, according to a statement jointly issued by the group and the website Wednesday morning.

The privatization of Alibaba.com was sanctioned by the Grand Court of Cayman Islands, where the group is registered, on Friday (Cayman Islands time), as the vast majority of the website's minority shareholders voted in favor of the scheme late May, said an earlier statement.

Alibaba offered to buy back a 26 percent stake of its subsidiary for HK$13.5 ($1.74) a share, at an estimated cost of HK$19 billion.

Shareholders gave their nod days after Alibaba Group announced it would spend about $7 billion in repurchasing up to one-half of its major shareholder Yahoo! Inc.'s stake in the company, or approximately 20 percent of Alibaba's fully diluted shares.

According to the agreement reached between the two sides, if Alibaba makes an initial public offering (IPO) by the end of 2015, it will buy back one-half of Yahoo's remaining stake -- a 10 percent holding -- at the time of the IPO.

Alibaba.com was established in 1999 by Jack Ma in Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang province, and went public in 2007.

Taking the website private would allow the company to make long-term decisions that are in the best interest of customers and free the company from the pressure coming from having a publicly listed company, Jack Ma, the group's chairman, said after announcing the plan in February.

Starting last year, the B2B platform, specialized in matching buyers and sellers around the globe with Chinese suppliers, has shifted its strategy from expanding the number of paying members to fostering a site with better quality and service to buyers, by lifting the threshold to entries. The change has led to a drop in the number of vendors.

The privatization of the Hong Kong-listed flagship company has been widely seen as preparation for the expected IPO of Alibaba Group.

"There is no timetable for the group's IPO. As for the year of 2015 mentioned in our agreement with Yahoo, it may be a time that both sides feel reasonable," said Zheng Ming, chief strategy officer of the group, at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Besides Alibaba.com, the group also include Taobao, a leading C2C online shopping destination, and Tmall.com, a popular B2C online marketplace for brand-name goods, as well as eTao, a shopping search engine.

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