Copies of Rosetta Stone will be flying off the shelves of midtown stores this week, as hundreds of Wall Street executives scramble to learn how to say "Thank you for saving our year-end profits" in Mandarin as quickly as possible.
The occasion, of course, is the initial public offering of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, which is supposed to raise approximately eight gajillion dollars on the American stock market and provide Wall Street banks with about four zillion dollars in underwriting fees.
According to DealBook, the lucky investment banks who will get to co-sponsor Alibaba's offering (and share in the historic fees) are Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley, with Citigroup (poor Citigroup) expected only to "play a role" in the feeding frenzy. All of the co-sponsoring banks will get "about the same fee" for helping with the deal, according to the WSJ, with a total payout that could be as high as $150 million, making it one of the biggest IPOs in history.
Despite the fact that American banks have been salivating over it for the better part of five years, nobody really knows what Alibaba is. The Journal calls it "a mix of Amazon, eBay and PayPal, with a dash of Google thrown in, all with some uniquely Chinese characteristics." Which basically means it's a website? That sells ... stuff? To Chinese people?
Oh, well. In a few months, Wall Street will have extracted its fees and moved on, and Alibaba will be but a footnote on the financial sector's Q2 results. Just remember that when you see a bunch of luxury cars flying out of downtown Manhattan dealerships this summer, it might have something to do with Jack Ma's largesse.