Which law firms will advise Jack Ma on his plans for Alibaba and Ant?

As Alibaba Group seeks to upgrade its secondary listing in Hong Kong to primary status, all eyes are on the companies that will handle the tech giant’s latest game.

When it listed in New York in 2014, raising $25 billion in what was then the world’s largest initial public offering (IPO), it was represented by its chief legal advisers, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Fangda Partners.

The Chinese conglomerate was again advised by Simpson Thacher and Fangda when it applied for a secondary listing in Hong Kong in 2019, during which it raised a further $13 billion.

Underwriters on both listings were advised by King & Wood Mallesons and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Now, Alibaba has announced that it is looking to upgrade its secondary listing in Hong Kong to primary status. His legal advisers are likely the same foursome, none of whom responded to requests for comment.

For Fangda, Alibaba is one of the company’s most prominent long-time customers. The firm has advised the tech giant on many of its strategic acquisitions and investments over the years. He also represented Ant Group, the fintech subsidiary of Alibaba, in a $14 billion funding round in 2018. Former Fangda Chairman Jonathan Zhou left the company in 2020 to join Ant Group as General Counsel.

It’s a similar story for Simpson Thacher, the company’s former partner Leiming Chen is now a director of Ant Group, having joined in 2016 as Zhou’s predecessor. Chen is now a senior vice president at Ant Group and leads the company’s international government and policy issues. For Alibaba’s 2014 debut in the United States, Simpson Thacher reportedly raised $16 million in legal fees. The company has since gone on to represent Alibaba in several transactions, including a $4.6 billion investment in Chinese e-commerce platform Suning.com in 2015, and a $5 billion senior note issuance. Last year.

Alibaba’s plans in Hong Kong will help the company guard against delisting risks in the United States 150 Chinese companies are at risk of being expelled from American stock exchanges as early as next year, China and the United States do not having so far failed to agree an agreement on access auditing.

For now, Alibaba will keep its US depository shares on the New York Stock Exchange. Other Chinese companies, including electric vehicle makers Xpeng and Li-Auto have already launched dual primary listed shares in Hong Kong last year, raising $2 billion and $1.5 billion respectively. Sullivan & Cromwell and Fangda Partners advised Xpeng, Li Auto was advised by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Han Kun Law Offices.

News of Alibaba’s Hong Kong listing upgrade coincides with reports of Jack Ma’s plans to relinquish control of Ant Group, as part of the fintech giant’s push to move away from its subsidiary Alibaba.

Both companies, founded by Ma, have faced significant pressure from Chinese regulators, who have been scrambling to curb Alibaba’s expansion. In connection with this, Alibaba received a $2.7 billion antitrust fine last year.

Based in Hangzhou, Ant Group operates one of China’s most popular mobile financial apps: Alipay. Its $34 billion Hong Kong IPO, again advised by Simpson Thacher, Fangda, Freshfields and King & Wood Mallesons, also went off the rails. Ant has since been ordered to restructure as a financial holding company in order to be regulated by China’s central bank.

The new Chinese regulations have since thwarted several other IPOs of other Chinese companies. Skadden and Simpson Thacher were advising Chinese ride-sharing giant Didi Chuxing’s on its $4.4 billion IPO in New York. Didi’s success was short-lived as a few days later, the Cyberspace Administration of China announced that it had opened a national security investigation into Didi, and subsequently ordered app stores in China to cease. to offer Didi’s product because it collected “personal information in violation” of Chinese laws and regulations. .