initial public offerings (IPOs) trading on American exchanges

Friday, December 9, 2011

Facebook reportedly is aiming for a $10B public offering

Facebook may be a few months away from an initial public offering that could value the social-networking firm at $100 billion. Sources say Facebook is discussing the matter with the Securities and Exchange Commission and is looking at spring as a possible target date for a $10 billion IPO. 

If the offering pans out, Facebook's public offering would be among the four largest ever for a U.S. company, putting the company in league with Visa, General Motors and AT&T Wireless.

But it will likely come to market at a time when investors are beginning to question the value of some newer Internet businesses.

The most recent IPO, an $805 million float of discount-deal service Groupon Inc. on Nov. 3, has plummeted 42% in price in the past five trading days after surging in its first day of trading. Business-networking service LinkedIn Corp., whose stock more than doubled from its IPO price on its first day of trading May 19, has since fallen 36%, but remains 33% above its IPO.

Companies often explore an IPO once they have $100 million in revenue. Facebook is expected to debut with more than $4 billion in revenue, making it bigger than Web veteran Yahoo Inc.

Facebook has gone so far as to craft its own prospectus, said the people familiar with the matter. A prospectus document—which is filed with the SEC outlining the company's business—is typically prepared by bankers and lawyers hired by a company.

The social network, which was started by Mr. Zuckerberg in 2004 out of his Harvard University dorm room, has led the way in reshaping how people share information and interact with others on the Web. It now counts 800 million users, with 500 million users logging into the site daily.

Facebook will be required to make its financial information public by April, because the company will cross the 500-shareholder limit by the end of this year. The SEC requires companies with more than 500 shareholders to publicly disclose its financial information.

The most valuable company ever to go public was Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, which sold $21.9 billion of stock in October 2006 and finished its first day of trading with a market value of $148 billion, Dealogic said.

A Facebook offering of $10 billion would be the largest IPO by any technology or Internet company. The largest U.S. Internet IPO, the $1.9 billion sale in 2004 by Google Inc. which valued Google at $23 billion, ranks No. 3 among global Internet IPOs.

Facebook's revenue is driven by its online advertising business, as big brands rush to the site to interact with consumers through display ads and fan pages. Facebook's world-wide ad revenue is expected to hit $3.8 billion this year, up from $1.86 billion a year earlier, according to data compiled by eMarketer. Facebook's share of display ad revenue in the US is expected to grow to 16.3% in 2011 and 19.5% in 2012, eMarketer found.

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