Alibaba’s securities filing reveals that due to foreign ownership caps in China, buyers of Alibaba shares won’t actually own part of the company’s mainland assets, but will purchase part of a Cayman Islands-incorporated structure called Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. that is entitled to a share of the profits of Alibaba’s Chinese operations. Ma and Xie will retain control of the company’s Chinese assets. At least one locality in China has declared the structure – known as a variable interest entity – to be illegal. Alibaba:
[…] there are substantial uncertainties regarding the interpretation and application of current and future PRC laws, rules and regulations.