Alibaba plans to release the IPO genie in bid to raise $21bn

Jack Ma must really like America. The story goes that Ma fixed on the name of his soon-to-be-floated Chinese e-commerce business – dubbed China's Amazon and eBay combined – while sitting in a San Francisco cafe.

He was considering calling it Alibaba and asked a waitress what the word meant to her. When she said "open sesame", the idea of a door to a treasure trove seemed to fit his grand ambitions.

Now those ambitions are being fulfilled as Alibaba becomes the largest-ever listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Fifteen years after the fledgling business failed to rustle up $2m from Silicon Valley, Alibaba will be raising $21bn or more and will be valued at around $160bn, with dealings due to start next Friday.

But it is not all plain sailing. Alibaba reported second-quarter earnings of $2bn, up 46% on a year ago, although growth in active users showed signs of slowing. China's e-commerce market is expected to continue booming, with less than half the population online, but Alibaba faces growing competition from the likes of Baidu and Tencent. And investors may be wary of possible problems with Chinese censorship and regulations, as well as the control exercised over the company by Ma and his senior managers. There has already been controversy over the 2011 sale of Alibaba's payment business, Alipay, to a company controlled by Ma.

Reputations riding on the iPhone 6

Amid all the razzmatazz of Apple's latest launch – including a live performance from U2, and iTunes account holders receiving the band's new album whether they wanted it or not – it is easy to forget that the success of the iPhone 6 and Watch is crucial for its chief executive, Tim Cook, and highly paid retail guru, Angela Ahrendts.

It is also important for chip designer Imagination Technologies, a key supplier to Apple, which issues its latest trading update on Wednesday. The company has had a volatile time, with worries about weak licensing and falling royalty rates. A statement in June showed it beating expectations amid growth in new deals for smartphones and other products, but analysts still expect a dip in profits this year from £23.7m to around £22m.

Imagination Technologies will drop out of the FTSE 250 at the market close on Friday after recent share price weakness, particularly since June's sale of a 9.3% stake for £52m by Intel.

So investors will be keen to hear about the company's progress, especially for its newly launched 64-bit central processing unit, as well as its thoughts on Apple's future sales.

Asos must dress to impress shareholders

With London fashion week now well under way, online retailer Asos is hoping to come back into style with investors.

Once a stock market darling, the company issued two profit warnings in six months, prompting fears that its stellar growth had peaked. Shortly after the second one, in June, it suffered a warehouse fire in Barnsley, which damaged around 20% of its stock and prompted it briefly to stop taking orders.

Its shares have lost 60% of their value since the start of the year, despite a recent upwards blip on vague talk of a US takeover bid, and continue to be under pressure amid concerns of further bad news to come.

So investors will be looking for reassurance from Tuesday's update, especially about currency effects relating to its overseas sites. The recent strength of the pound had forced it to offer steep discounts in markets such as Russia, one of the reasons for the June warning.

News on Asos's soon-to-be-launched Chinese site is also being keenly awaited. As for any takeover, that would partly depend on 27% shareholder Bestseller, a Danish fashion group that is variously said to be keen to sell, or alternatively keen to snap up the rest of the group.

Powered by article was written by Nick Fletcher, for The Observer on Sunday 14th September 2014 00.05 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010