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Alibaba discloses revenue growth is picking up again as Chinese company prepares for big IPO

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SAN FRANCISCO - Alibaba's quarterly revenue growth is surging again, a development that should help the Chinese e-commerce company sell its shares in what could be one of the world's largest IPOs.

The latest evidence of Alibaba's financial allure surfaced in a regulatory update filed Wednesday as the company prepares to complete its initial public offering of stock next month.

Alibaba's latest quarter ending June 30 was highlighted by revenue of $2.54 billion, a 46 per cent increase from last year based on current exchange rates for the yuan.

The performance is likely to ease concerns that cropped up in June when Alibaba disclosed revenue growth of 39 per cent during the quarter ending March 31, the slowest rate in six years.

Alibaba Holding Group Ltd. earned nearly $2 billion in the latest quarter, including a one-time gain of $1 billion generated by a reassessment of the company's investment portfolio.

If not for that accounting manoeuvr and other items unrelated to the company's ongoing business, Alibaba said it still would have earned nearly $1.2 billion. That represented a 60 per cent increase in Alibaba's adjusted earnings from the previous year, according to the documents.

The impressive numbers set the stage for Alibaba's management to begin meeting after the Labor Day weekend with money managers interested in investing in the IPO. The roving presentations, known as a "road show," give investors a chance to gather more information while Alibaba's bankers gauge the demand for the company's stock before setting a price for the IPO shares and determining how many will be offered.

Analysts believe the demand to invest in Alibaba will be so intense that the company will be able to eclipse the $16 billion that Facebook Inc. raised two years ago. That IPO is the largest ever for a technology company. What's more, Alibaba is expected to debut on the New York Stock Exchange with a market value ranging $150 billion to $200 billion, topping all but a few U.S. companies.

Barring any hitches, the IPO should be completed by late September.

Alibaba is thriving because it has built an e-commerce bazaar that has become a shopping magnet for businesses and consumers alike as China's economy steadily grows. The company's network of sites includes Taobao, Tmall, and AliExpress, as well as Alibaba.

The total sales made on Alibaba's sites is now running at $296 billion annually, according to Wednesday's update, up from $248 billion annually when the company first filed its IPO documents in May. Alibaba now boasts 279 million active buyers, up from 231 million when the IPO process began.

In another promising sign as more online activity shifts away from personal computer, Alibaba attracts 188 million monthly visitors on mobile devices who are spending $71 billion annually, according to Wednesday's filing.

Alibaba isn't the only Internet company in line for a major windfall from the upcoming IPO.

Yahoo Inc. currently owns a 23 per cent stake in Alibaba, and will whittle its holdings by selling 140 million shares in the IPO. The value of the Alibaba stake is the main reason that Yahoo's stock price has nearly tripled during the past two years, even as Yahoo has been struggling to boost its own revenue.

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