Depending on investor response, proceeds could reach $8 billion which Alibaba is likely to use for general corporate expenditure, one of the people said.
The plan, including the timeline, is not final and subject to change, the people said, declining to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
Alibaba declined to comment.
The debt raising plan comes months after an October speech from billionaire co-founder Jack Ma about regulation stifling innovation that led to the suspension of affiliate Ant Group’s blockbuster $37 billion initial public offering.
Since then, Chinese regulators have launched an antitrust probe into Alibaba and ordered Ant to shake up its lending and other consumer finance businesses including the creation of a separate holding company to meet capital requirements.
The fundraising will be a test of investor sentiment towards Alibaba, and comes as Ma’s absence from public view in the past two months has fuelled social media speculation over his whereabouts.