Facebook reportedly warming to 2012 IPO

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Fresh whispers of a date for Facebook’s long-awaited initial public offering have emerged. According to the Wall Street Journal, the IPO could come as early as the first half of 2012.

This despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently saying he was in no hurry to take the social networking giant public.

According to the Journal, Facebook hopes to raise around $10-billion in the IPO which would see it valued somewhere around the US$100-billion mark.

That is around twice the current value of technology stalwart Hewlett Packard.

Many view the Facebook IPO as a defining point in the current online boom.

When Zuckerberg was asked about the possibility of an IPO at the recent Web 2.0 conference, however, his response was “don’t hold your breath”.

Since then, it would seem Facebook’s attitude has changed little.

“We’re not going to participate in speculation about an IPO,” said Facebook spokesman Larry Yu, speaking to the Journal.

The social network, which has around 800-million users, has fundamentally altered the social networking experience on the web. It has, until now been determined to forge its own financial path too.

Two of the biggest name tech IPOs in recent months, Groupon and LinkedIn, have both seen their share prices fall dramatically in the past few weeks.

Groupon’s stock has reportedly plummeted more than 42% since the highs reached in its IPO, while LinkedIn stock has fallen more than 36%.

Despite the falling stock prices of others in the spere, Zuckerberg is reportedly warming to the idea of an IPO.

The Journal cites “sources familiar with the matter” as saying that “Facebook is now in internal discussions over the timing of its IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission”.

Its decision to go public may, though, be based as much in pragmatism as opportunity.

Come April 2012, the company will be forced to make its shareholder information public as it will likely cross the 500 shareholder limit by the end of this year.

Facebook could publish this information without going public. According to the Journal, however, this comes with some disadvantages. “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,” it says.

Facebook’s fellow player in the social space, Twitter, has at times sought to buy out shareholders in order to avoid such a scenario.

If Facebook reaches is successful in its reported plans, then it will become only the 14th company overall to successfully file with a value of more than US$10-billion.

It would also be one of the largest tech IPOs ever, eclipsing by some margin, Google’s 2004 offering, which saw it valued at US$23-billion.

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