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Alibaba Jumps as SoftBank Denies Involvement in Stock Filing

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(Bloomberg) — Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. shares jumped in Hong Kong as SoftBank Group Corp. said it wasn’t involved in the Chinese tech giant’s filing of additional American depositary shares, allaying investor fears that the firm’s largest shareholder might be looking to cash out.

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Shares in Alibaba had fallen earlier this week after the firm filed to register an additional one billion ADSs with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That triggered analyst speculation that SoftBank might look to dispose of some of its shares, particularly as it is seen to need cash to fund buybacks.

SoftBank executives told analysts during a private post-results briefing Tuesday that they weren’t responsible for the share registration.

“The registration of the ADR conversion facility (F6 filing, which was filed by Alibaba), including its size, is not tied to any specific future transaction by SBG,” SoftBank said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

Alibaba shares traded in Hong Kong rose as much as 7%, the most this year, while SoftBank added as much as 5.9%.

Softbank founder Masayoshi Son said that he and his firm “were as surprised as everybody else” by the filing, Jefferies analyst Atul Goyal earlier told Bloomberg TV in an interview Wednesday morning.

Asked about a separate cash settlement on Alibaba forward exchange contracts that was disclosed in its earnings filing, Son said that the firm continues “to hold just under 25% of Alibaba having converted a tiny amount to cash,” Son said at a briefing on Tuesday. “We still hold 90-something-percent of our Alibaba stock.”

The registration with the SEC will facilitate investors who want to convert Hong Kong shares into ADSs in the future, Citigroup Inc. analysts including Alicia Yap said in a note on Wednesday.

SoftBank sold roughly $13.7 billion of Alibaba stock in 2020 in complex collar contracts as part of a move to pay down debt and buy back its own shares. While that buyback helped lifted SoftBank shares to a record in 2021, a 1 trillion yen repurchase announced late last year has done little to boost its shares, with Satoru Kikuchi, an analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., pointing to “confusion” in the market due to a lack of asset sales to fund it.

(Adds detail on previous Alibaba sales in ninth paragraph.)

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