Alibaba (BABA), the global leader by volume in the e-commerce sector, issued a record-shattering $25 billion IPO in Sept. 2014. The company's IPO in New York set a record as the world's biggest public stock offering. The company is likened to Amazon, eBay, PayPal, and Google all rolled into one.

The company announced its fiscal second-quarter 2021 earnings in Nov. 2021. The global e-commerce company reported $22.83 billion in revenues for the quarter, an increase of 30% year-over-year.

Alibaba has grown to be one of China's largest companies, with extensive influence in the world. It first gained control over the Chinese e-commerce market, with a reported 69% of online retail sales in China going through the company in 2020. It offers a suite of products for storefronts that want to compete in the e-commerce market. The company's key business segments include mobile media and entertainment, cloud computing, and core commerce, along with other developing initiatives.

Key Takeaways

  • Alibaba, one of China's largest companies, IPO'd in September 2014 with a record-breaking $25 billion.
  • Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, is no longer the company’s largest shareholder, having retired from the company last year.
  • Joseph Tsai, Ma’s co-founder at Alibaba, is the second-largest shareholder behind Softbank. 
  • Altaba, Blackrock, and T. Rowe Price round out the top five shareholders.

As of Jan. 12, 2021, those business segments have earned the company a market capitalization of $612.04 billion. The company's shares stood at $225.60, well beyond its post-IPO market price of $115.

Alibaba co-founder and chair Jack Ma was the largest individual shareholder of the company for many years. In 2019, Ma relished his ownership stake in Alibaba. In the early 1990s, Ma realized China lacked technology in the business world. He founded China Pages, one of China's first Internet companies, which created a website for businesses, and then went on to work for an Internet company that was backed by the Chinese government. It wasn't until 1999, though, that he decided to branch out on his own and co-founded Alibaba.

The company first developed its name in China before going global. In 2005, the company attracted the attention of Yahoo!, which took out a majority stake in the company. According to Forbes, Ma has a net worth of $57.9 billion and is one of the wealthiest people in the world. He also owns a stake in Chinese media and entertainment company Huayi Brothers.

Here are Alibaba's five largest individual and institutional shareholders as of Jan. 2021, unless otherwise indicated.

1. Softbank Group 

Softbank's stake in Alibaba is equivalent to approximately 25% of the company; it is Alibaba's largest shareholder. Softbank invested $20 million in Alibaba back in 2000 when it was a young startup. In fact, Softbank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son was the one that bought into Alibaba.

Softbank’s Alibaba stake is now worth nearly $143 billion. Softbank sold part of its stake in 2019, booking over $11 billion in pre-tax profits. Then in July 2020, the company is said to have sold an additional $2.2 billion of its stake in Alibaba. However, the deal is not expected to be settled until June 2024. 

2. Joseph Tsai

Alibaba co-founder and vice-chair Joseph Tsai is the second-largest shareholder in the company, with 11.9% of the outstanding stock. Tsai is a Taiwanese-Canadian businessman who met Ma while working for the Hong Kong branch of an investment company.

Tsai quit his high-paying job so the two could work together to create the online import-export marketplace that would eventually become Alibaba. According to Forbes, Tsai's net worth is $12.1 billion. He owns a 49% stake in the Brooklyn Nets National Basketball Association team and has two degrees from Yale.

3. Jack Ma

Jack Ma is Alibaba's co-founder and former executive chair. In 2020, Ma retired as the company's executive chair. It was reported that his decision to step down from his formal business role with the company was so that he could focus more on his philanthropic endeavors.

In 2020, Ma reduced his stake in Alibaba from 6.2% to 4.8%. Alibaba did not disclose the average selling price of Ma's investment, although the company's share price has risen significantly since in the last several years, and especially in the last year as more people have been forced to shop online for their essential items in order to prevent the spread of the novel virus.

4. T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.

T. Rowe Price is a global asset management firm that was founded in 1937. It offers a range of services including funds, account management, retirement plans, and advisory services for individuals, corporations, and other institutions. T. Rowe Price owns 2.31% of Alibaba, as of Jan. 2021.

The firm is headquartered in Baltimore, Md., and has offices in almost 50 countries. The firm has over $1 trillion in assets under management. According to its website, the average investment experience of its advisers is 22 years.

5. BlackRock Fund Advisors

The fifth-largest shareholder in Alibaba is Blackrock. The investment firm owns 2.07% of shares outstanding. The global investment management firm is based in New York City and has 70 offices in more than 30 different countries. It was founded as a risk management and fixed-income institutional asset manager in 1988. The firm has over $7 trillion in assets under management.

The company provides a range of financial services. But its largest division is iShares, with more than 800 exchange traded funds (ETFs)—the largest ETF provider in the world.