China’s JD.com prices IPO above expectations, bodes well for Alibaba-Reuters

(Reuters) – China’s JD.com priced its IPO at $19 per share, exceeding the expected range and suggesting strong demand for Chinese e-commerce companies as larger rival Alibaba Group Holding Inc prepares its own highly anticipated U.S. debut.

The country’s second-largest e-commerce company priced its American Depositary Shares (ADS) a dollar above the higher end of a $16 to $18 indicated range, valuing the company at more than $25 billion, according to its underwriters.

Investors are watching JD.com, hoping for clues as to how Wall Street will receive its much larger peer. Alibaba has filed for what some expect could be the largest initial public offering by a technology company to date.

JD.com, which has forged a close partnership with Alibaba arch-rival Tencent Holdings, raised $1.78 billion from the sale of 93.7 million ADS. Its shares are expected to start trading on Thursday on the Nasdaq.

The 10-year-old company, the biggest direct seller of online goods in China, will remain tightly controlled by founder and CEO Richard Liu after the IPO through special shares that grant him extra voting rights.

Investor appetite for Chinese technology stocks recovered in 2013 after a series of accounting scandals dried up U.S. listings in 2011 from a high of 40 in 2010. This year, investors have driven down valuations of tech stocks, including that of Amazon.com, but many on Wall Street expect a stellar debut from Alibaba, which controls some 80 percent of all online Chinese commerce.

China’s business to consumer e-commerce sales may pass $180 billion this year due to rising Internet usage, expanding middle-class incomes and a better distribution network, according to New York-based market research firm eMarketer.

JD.com had an 18.3 percent share of that market as of the third quarter of 2013, according to Beijing-based iResearch. It claims some 30 million-plus active customers and saw net revenue jump 70 percent to $8 billion in 2013’s first nine months.

Formerly known as 360Buy, it has already raised more than $2 billion in past years from investors including the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co 4280.SE.

Other backers include Tiger Global Management and DST Global funds.

BofA Merrill Lynch and UBS Investment Banker were the lead underwriters for the IPO.

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