By Scott Murdoch
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Alibaba's <BABA.N> order books for its $13.4 billion Hong Kong share sale have already been covered "multiple times," sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday, as the ecommerce group kicked off its campaign for the secondary listing in the city gripped by protests.
The Chinese e-commerce giant plans to list its shares in Hong Kong from November 26, where it is hoping to raise up to $13.4 billion, and it is marketing the deal to investors around the world.
The sources said potential investors had been told that the "quality of demand is high" and that there "continues to be very strong feedback" about the deal.
An Alibaba spokeswoman declined to comment.
Pricing of the shares for institutional shareholders will be set on November 20, a prospectus lodged with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange shows. Retail investors will not pay more than $HK188 per share.
In a first for the Asian financial hub, Alibaba said the listing would be fully automated and paperless to reflect its environmental standards, confirming an earlier Reuters story.
Investment bankers familiar with the listing however said the move avoided a potential publicity nightmare of investors queuing at banks to place stock orders while protests raged around them.
Four thousand people have been arrested in Hong Kong since June and the territory’s economy has sunk into recession for the first time in a decade as the anti-government demonstrations disrupt business and deter tourists.
Earlier on Friday, Alibaba Group Chairman Daniel Zhang made no mention of the unrest in Hong Kong in a letter included in the company's supplementary prospectus.
"Over the last few years, there have been many encouraging reforms in Hong Kong’s capital market. During this time of ongoing change, we continue to believe that the future of Hong Kong remains bright," Zhang wrote.
The share sale is set to be Hong Kong's largest in more than nine years, and comes as Beijing seeks support from the semi-autonomous territory's tycoons and entrepreneurs to maintain a sense of business-as-usual in the face of more than five months of unrest.
Alibaba had originally considered a Hong Kong initial public offering in 2013, but ultimately chose New York after failing to gain approval from Hong Kong regulators for its unusual governance structure.
The institutional price will be finalised on Nov. 20 following a book build which is underway for global investors.
In the retail component 12.5 million shares will be offered, which is 2.5% of the total deal, but that could be increased to up to 50 million, or 10% of the total transaction.
Alibaba also has the option to exercise a so-called over-allotment option to add an extra 75 million shares to the deal.
(Reporting by Scott Murdoch; Editing by Stephen Coates and Jane Merriman)