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Chinese online retailer looking at record-breaking IPO

A Chinese company which runs a popular online shopping site is hoping to raise between $4 billion and $5 billion in an IPO in the first half of next year, according to people familiar with the matter.

Such a figure would dwarf Google’s $1.9 billion IPO back in 2004, the current record for an Internet IPO.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, the company planning what could be the biggest Internet IPO in US history is one few living in the States will have heard of – Beijing Jingdong Century Trading Company. The company operates 360buy.com, a hugely popular online shopping site in China, comparable to Amazon in the broad range of goods that it sells and the business-to-consumer model it uses.

With the Chinese middle class growing fast, research firm Analysys International believes that the online shopping market will grow by up to five times in the next three years, from 130 billion yuan ($20 billion) to 650 billion yuan ($100 billion).

Writing for MSN Money, financial journalist Kim Peterson said the high value of the rumored IPO seemed rather hopeful, “given the rough IPO market we’ve seen in the last year. More than half of the IPOs from 2011 are already underwater, trading at below their offering price.”

She added: “And investors are nervous about jumping into China stocks. Some of them, like Baidu (BIDU), are proven winners. But others have been exposed for fraudulent financial accounting.”

The WSJ also points out that Jingdong, which employs some 12,000 people, hasn’t yet made a profit, although its 2010 revenue increased on the year before by $626 million to $1.6 billion.

If the value of Jingdong’s IPO does take the record for an Internet company, it may not stand for long. Facebook is also looking at going ahead with an IPO, possibly some time next year.

Jingdong declined to make any comment to the WSJ on its future plans.

[Image courtesy of Kheng Guan Toh / Shutterstock]