Alibaba Group has hired Washington lobbying firm Duberstein Group Inc, in a sign that the Chinese company would be willing to make a bid for all of Yahoo Inc if talks for buying back Yahoo's Asian assets do not succeed.
Japan's Softbank Corp is also listed as an Alibaba affiliate in the lobbying firm's disclosure.
Alibaba declined to comment.
Alibaba, which has been interested in buying back most of the 40 percent stake that Yahoo owns in it, retained the lobbyist firm in the fall to prepare for the possibility that it might have to bid for all of Yahoo, possibly along with some private equity firms, a source familiar with the situation said.
However, now Yahoo is considering a proposal by Alibaba and Softbank to buy shares Yahoo owns in the Chinese company and Yahoo Japan in a complex deal valued at roughly $17 billion, sources told Reuters last week.
Yahoo owns 35 percent of Yahoo Japan, with Softbank as the majority partner in that venture.
The Duberstein Group is headed by Kenneth Duberstein, a former White House chief of staff under U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Its other clients include BP America Inc, Goldman Sachs & Co and Pfizer Inc.
The filing marks the first time Alibaba has registered to lobby the U.S. government, according to a search of congressional records.
The lobbying registration lists the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions, as an intermediary between Alibaba and the company's lobbying team.
The lobbying registration was received by a U.S. Senate office on December 23 and then posted online, but the lobbying work likely began earlier.
Under U.S. law, a lobbying firm is required to file a public disclosure within 45 days of crossing certain thresholds, such as making contact with a public official. The filing for Alibaba says it is effective as of December 1.
(Reporting By David Ingram in Washington and Paritosh Bansal in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Steve Orlofsky)