Why Did Goldman Sachs Sell Alibaba Shares Early?

Alibaba1
A woman stands next to a door inside the headquarters of Alibaba in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on April 23, 2014. Reuters/Chance Chan

Goldman Sachs will not benefit when Alibaba sells its stocks to the public, even though the Wall Street bank was one of its first investors, the New York Times reported on Wednesday night.

The company sold its stake in Alibaba in 2004 and earned $22 million, which was nearly seven times its original investment, but it is also one of the banks underwriting the company's initial public offer, or IPO, which is expected to be the biggest public offer by a company ever.

Though Goldman Sachs definitely benefited from selling its stake in the company in 2004, it stood to make much more if it had waited another decade. Instead of making nearly seven times over their investment, Alibaba’s value exploded, and Goldman Sachs could have made 30 times their original deal.

Goldman Sachs denied comment to the New York Times.

Though Goldman Sachs doesn't stand to benefit by Alibaba going public, there are two other companies that could rake in millions.

In January 2000, Japanese technology group SoftBank, along with its founder Masayoshi Son, invested $20 million in Alibaba. For a time, the two dominant shareholders in the company were SoftBank and Goldman, but since Goldman sold its shares in 2004, SoftBank now holds a 34 percent stake, the Times reported, citing a company filing.

GGV Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, eventually invested $7.8 million into the company, with principal founder Hany Nada being quoted by the Times as saying their company made “30 times” its original investment, which leaves them with an average return of $200 million.

The list of lead underwriters, according to the Times, are: Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. And, according to the Guardian, Credit Suisse could make more than $100 million from the IPO, which is expected to raise more than $20 billion.

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