Wall Street has a new favorite customer: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The Chinese e-commerce company has emerged as this year's biggest source of fees for banks working on capital-markets deals. After its $25 billion initial public offering in September, the largest in history, the Chinese Internet company on Thursday sold $8 billion in bonds, one of the largest corporate-bond deals of the year, the Wall Street Journal said. The company announced one week ago that it planned to make the sale, with the intention to repay an $8 billion loan owed to banks. Maturities ranged from three to 20 years in the six-part deal, the Journal reported. It called the transaction one of the largest corporate bond deals of the year. The $8 billion sale eclipsed a $6.5 billion issue last month by Bank of China Ltd. to become the biggest dollar-denominated offering by an Asian company. The company is led by billionaire Chairman Jack Ma, who founded it from his apartment in 1999 with $60,000. Its main marketplaces include Taobao, which links individual buyers and sellers, and Tmall.com, which connects retailers and consumers.
Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. managed Alibaba's debt sale. Morgan Stanley and the other banks coordinating the sale are lenders to Alibaba under an $8 billion credit facility that has already been used. Alibaba plans to use proceeds from the bond sale to help pay off that $8 billion loan, which carries variable interest rates tied to the overall market. The bonds sold Thursday mostly carry fixed rates, potentially giving the company savings over time should market rates rise.
When drugstore chain Walgreen Co. completed an $8 billion bond sale this month, banks on the deal reaped nearly $40 million, according to a securities filing.
Banks have collected more than $35 billion in fees so far this year on new stock and bond offerings, according to data provider Dealogic, up from about $32 billion at this time last year. Alibaba is already the largest payer of underwriting fees to banks this year, dispensing $291 million to the arrangers of its September IPO, according to Dealogic.
Alibaba has eclipsed firms such as Canadian energy company Encana Corp., French telecommunications firm Numericable Group SA and Japanese real-estate company Mitsui Fudosan Co. to top the rankings of the most lucrative underwriting clients globally this year, according to Dealogic figures.
In an unusual move, Alibaba insisted that there be no lead bank on its initial share offering. The company listed five banks on the deal in alphabetical order - Credit Suisse Group AG , Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley - to reflect their equal base fees for the deal, with a sixth lead bank, Citigroup, listed after them because it received a smaller base fee, people familiar with the deal have said. Alibaba intended the arrangement to reward each of the banks for prior work with the company and to maintain future relationships, though some bankers were frustrated that the initial pay didn't reflect different roles in the deal, the people said.
The $291 million IPO fee reflected a pay rate of 1.2 percent, which was slightly more than the 1.1 percent Facebook Inc. paid in its $16 billion IPO, completed in 2012. It was still far less than the typical 6 percent to 7 percent awarded in most IPOs.