Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba filed paperwork on Tuesday to prepare for what could be the biggest initial public offering in US history. The firm plans to raise $1 billion but that figure is seen as just a placeholder, with analysts believing Alibaba may pull in more than the $16 billion raised by Facebook in 2012.
While Alibaba is largely unknown in the West, the site is a dominant force in the Asian e-commerce market. The service is often described as a mix of Amazon, eBay and Google but it's so huge that it dwarfs Amazon and eBay. Last year Alibaba processed more than 11 billion orders from 231 million active buyers, earning the company a net income of about $1.4 billion on $5.6 billion in revenue.
Alibaba was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma, the billionaire charismatic leader who currently serves as executive chairman. Ma has said he was turned down for a number of jobs before starting Alibaba, including as a manager at a Kentucky Fried Chicken store. Ma, who owns 8.9% of Alibaba's ordinary shares, recently set up two charitable trusts funded by share options of the company.