Facebook Inc., the world’s most popular social-networking site, is seeking as much as $11.8 billion in its initial public offering, the largest on record for an Internet company.
About 337.4 million shares are being sold at $28 to $35 each, according to a regulatory filing from Menlo Park, California-based Facebook. That compares with the $2.92 billion IPO for German Internet company T-Online International AG in 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Founded in 2004 and led by 27-year-old Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has amassed more than 900 million users and reported a 24-fold increase in sales over the past four years. The company’s popularity as a tool for staying connected online will spur demand for the stock, even as some investors steer clear of a valuation they deem too high, said Francis Gaskins, president of researcher IPOdesktop.com.
“Some people will buy Facebook stock no matter what -- they’ll just buy it,” said Gaskins, who is based in Marina Del Rey, California. “There’s going to be an initial push of enthusiasm and money, but ultimately, in a year or so, it will come down to valuation metrics. It has to.”
The company was considering an IPO valuation of as high as $100 billion, people with knowledge of the matter have said. At that amount, Facebook would have a market capitalization about half as high as Google’s -- even though it has one-10th the sales.
Facebook filed for the IPO Feb. 1, using a placeholder amount of $5 billion. Zuckerberg, a co-founder, is the company’s top holder, filings show. Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are leading Facebook’s IPO. The shares will be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol FB.
Executives will begin marketing the share sale to investors as soon as next week, a person with knowledge of the matter said on May 1. That indicates the IPO should happen by end of May.
The initial share sale would dwarf the 2004 IPO of Google, Facebook’s biggest competitor for online ads and the world’s most valuable Internet company. Google’s offering, the same year Zuckerberg helped found Facebook, raised $1.9 billion and valued the company then at about $23 billion.
The social-network operator follows fellow Internet companies such as Zynga Inc. and Groupon Inc. in going public. Zynga, the maker of Internet games such as “Farmville,” raised $1 billion in its December IPO, while online-coupon provider Groupon raised $805 million, including an overallotment option, in November. Both stocks are trading below their offer prices.
Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook with his college roommates at Harvard University, developing a site that let students socialize over the Web. He later made the service accessible to everyone, intensifying competition with sites such as MySpace and Friendster.
Both eventually succumbed to Facebook, which lured users with innovative features like News Feed, which lets people check on friends’ activities in a single place. News Corp., which bought MySpace in 2005, sold the site last year for a fraction of the price it paid. Friendster revamped itself as a social- gaming platform following its 2009 purchase by Malaysia’s MOL Global Ltd.
Facebook’s revenue surged 88 percent last year to $3.71 billion, with online advertising accounting for almost all of it. The company also is sharpening its focus on the mobile market as users spend more time accessing the site through Internet-ready handheld devices such as the iPhone.
In the first quarter of 2012, sales climbed 45 percent to $1.06 billion, thought net income dropped 10 percent to $137 million from a year earlier.
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