E-commerce giant Alibaba (finally) files to go public

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is relatively unknown in the U.S. But that’s about to change.

The company’s filing, its official signal of intent to go public, offers a peek inside the company that controls roughly 80 percent of China’s online commerce market.

The valuation game

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Recent estimates have valued Alibaba between $150 billion to $200 billion. That suggests the planned IPO could raise up to $15 billion, making it one of the biggest Internet IPOs since Facebook’s listing in 2012.

Alibaba’s estimated worth on the low range is based on some synthetic securities to a higher estimated value, suggested by bullish analysts, who are comparing it to other highly valued Internet stocks, the Financial Times reports.

How is Alibaba so successful is china? Watch:

John Sculley, former chief executive of Apple, recently told CNBC that the Chinese e-commerce giant is the “hottest thing in high tech right now.”

Inside Alibaba

Alibaba operates in the world’s largest Internet market—China. With 24,000 employees, more people work for the company than Yahoo and Facebook combined.

Alibaba.com is part of the Alibaba Group, founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, a former English teacher from Hangzhou, China. Alibaba.com first became profitable in 2002. Alibaba Group’s other platforms include Taobao, Tmall and Alipay. The latter is an online and mobile payment platform.

A big annual event for Alibaba occurs on Nov. 11, when the company conducts a huge online shopping sale that coincides with “Single’s Day” in China. That’s when young Chinese lament or celebrate being single.

The most recent Single’s Day generated some $5.7 billion in sales, even though only a fraction of Chinese shoppers have broadband access, said Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital, on a recent “Closing Bell.” “It just shows you the power of this brand. I think this thing trades through the $200 billion market cap number, that’s our opinion.”

And if Alibaba already rings a bell for you, that may be because Yahoo owns a 24 percent stake in the company. Their other key listed shareholder is Japan’s SoftBank.

Read More Five things you should know about Alibaba

Looking ahead, Alibaba’s growth strategy includes appealing to consumers—outside China—and familiarizing the globe with its brand, and site offerings.

A virtual bazaar of stuff, Alibaba’s platforms allow consumers and businesses to buy and sell virtually anything from luxury leather jackets to prefabricated container homes.

“Alibaba has a better business model than Amazon, because Alibaba doesn’t have anything invested in inventory,” said Bert Dohmen, president of Dohmen Capital Research on “Closing Bell.” “So in a recession they can withstand it much better than a company like Amazon.”

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Beyond Alibaba, more Chinese companies have been on investors’ radar. Weibo, a Chinese microblogging company similar to Twitter, debuted on the Nasdaq last week.

—By CNBC.com staff

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