Alibaba, which priced its massive initial public offering at $68 a share late on Thursday, began trading on the NYSE under the ticker "BABA'' Friday morning. Ahead of that, the NYSE had performed extensive testing of its trading systems in a bid to ensure its debut goes smoothly.
Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma, already worth an estimated $13 billion, started the trading day. Ma is poised for a big pay day - selling more than 12 million shares and possibly netting hundreds of millions of dollars.
Alibaba is China's leading e-commerce company and operates the world’s largest online marketplaces for both international and domestic trade.
“In the U.S. the same market was split by two dominant companies, but in China, Alibaba, you know, one combined the strength of the two," explained John Wu, Alibaba Group's former chief technology officer. "I think it should be able to maintain this kind of dominance for the next several years at least. In the long run, nobody knows; but in the short run, I still see the company as one of the best managed , best run, and one of the healthiest companies.”
Peter Cardillo, chief marketing economist at Rockwell Global Capital, calls Friday’s initial public offering another boost for the financial markets.
U.S. Internet technology company Yahoo! holds nearly 24 percent of Alibaba and will sell 140 million shares at the IPO - the earnings will help it acquire other tech companies.
However, the Alibaba IPO presents some concerns, particularly because China's Communist government plays a heavy role in markets and major businesses.
Gary Reischel, managing director at Qiming Weichuang Venture Capital Management, says investors must be careful, in part because of Alibaba's size and the early demand for shares.
“I think you have to differentiate between Alibaba the company, which is doing real well, and this as an investment for an individual investor," he advised. "Because then I would look at the perspective that the company has a vast market share today. It almost can’t do anything but go down."