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Alibaba.com, China's largest ecommerce site, is to float on the stock market in what is likely to be the largest ever initial public offering by a Chinese internet firm.

Alibaba has two main strands of business: a consumer site for Chinese residents with 16 million registered users, and a business to business website - Alibaba International - which claims over 500,000 visitors every day. Only the B2B site is to float.

Alibaba International claims to offer big savings on traditional product sourcing. The vast site claims over 97,000 categories of "home supplies". Reportedly, 609 new companies have signed up today.

The site includes a TrustPass feature, to reassure buyers that the sellers are who they claim to be.

Alibaba bought Yahoo! China! in October 2005 and Yahoo! invested $1bn in the company. At the time it was valued at $4bn.

Three banks - Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley - are advising the firm.

There's more on the International Herald Tribune here. ®

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