Facebook Plans $10 Billion IPO at $100 Billion Valuation Next Spring

Social networking company Facebook is considering an initial public offering for the second quarter of 2012, WSJ reports.

Facebook Inc. is considering raising about $10 billion in an initial public offering that would value the world’s largest social-networking site at more than $100 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Photo: Numenpic/Flickr

The social networking firm is now targeting a time frame of April to June 2012 for an initial public offering, WSJ reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The company is exploring raising $10 billion in its IPO—what would be one of the largest offerings ever—in a deal that might assign Facebook a $100 billion valuation, a number greater than twice that of such stalwarts as Hewlett-Packard Co. and 3M Co.

The social network, which now claims more than 800 million members after seven years of explosive growth, has not selected bankers to manage what would be a very closely watched IPO. But it had drafted an internal prospectus and was ready at any moment to pull the IPO trigger, the Journal cited people familiar with the matter as saying.

Facebook’s $100 billion valuation would be twice as high as it was in January, when the company announced a $1.5 billion investment from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and other backers. Facebook aims to capitalize on strong demand for social- networking IPOs, said Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based IPOX Schuster LLC.

“It’s obviously a very steep valuation,” said Schuster, whose firm invests in IPOs and oversees about $2.5 billion in assets. “They are realizing their window of opportunity, and they want to do it sooner rather than later.”

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has in the past publicly expressed reluctance to do an IPO. And he has opted to keep Facebook private longer than many suspected he would.

But he is warming to the idea. Facebook is now in internal discussions over the timing of its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and is considering filing dates as early as this year, said these people. Mr. Zuckerberg hasn’t made any final decisions, these people cautioned.

Facebook’s IPO is far enough away that the details may change, said Lise Buyer, principal of the Class V Group, an IPO advisory firm.

“It’s far too early to accurately predict where the valuation will be on deal day,” she said.

Facebook expects to be required by U.S. regulators to disclose financial results by April 30, 2012, if it doesn’t go public by then, the company said in January. Facebook decided to wait until 2012 for its IPO to give Mark Zuckerberg more time to gain users and boost sales, people familiar with the matter said last year.

Facebook has become one of the world’s most popular Web destinations, challenging established companies such as Google Inc and Yahoo Inc for consumers’ online time and for advertising dollars.

Facebook does not disclose its financial results, but a source familiar with the situation told Reuters earlier this year that the company’s revenue in the first six months of 2011 doubled year-on-year to $1.6 billion.

Facebook could publish its financial information come April without an IPO, but board members and top executives have privately acknowledged that it would leave the company at a severe disadvantage, since they would have most of the liability that comes with being a public company, but lose out on the fundraising benefits of a public offering, said these people.

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.

Only 13 IPOs have ever been completed with a value greater than $10 billion, and just three of those have been for U.S. companies, according to Dealogic, which tracks new securities issues. The only U.S. issuers at that size level have been Visa Inc. at $19.7 billion in 2008; General Motors Co. at $18.1 billion in 2010; and AT&T Wireless Services Inc. at $10.6 billion in 2000. [via The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes and Reuters]

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