UPDATE 2-Alibaba close to deciding on New York as IPO venue -FT

Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:04am EDT

HONG KONG, March 13 (Reuters) - Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding is "95 percent certain" to choose New York as the venue for its initial public offering, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources close to the deal.

The company is no longer discussing a potential listing in Hong Kong, the newspaper added, citing the sources.

"There is no timeline, no venue selected, nor have any underwriters been hired for an IPO event," an Alibaba spokeswoman said in a statement, reiterating previous comments on the IPO, which analysts have estimated could be worth more than $15 billion.

The company's listing venue has been up in the air since last year, after Hong Kong regulators refused to bend on their one share-one vote stance.

Alibaba has planned an IPO with a shareholder structure that allows a group of top managers and founders to nominate and control the board, while holding only around 13 percent of the company's shares.

Though there had been some speculation that Alibaba and Hong Kong regulators could be moving to a compromise, Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai appeared to throw cold water on the prospect on Wednesday, telling Reuters that the company would not change its partnership shareholding structure in order to list in Hong Kong.

Under an agreement with its second biggest shareholder, Yahoo Inc, Alibaba has incentives in place to complete an IPO before Dec. 2015. Japan's SoftBank Corp is Alibaba's biggest shareholder with a 36.7 percent stake.