Facebook IPO could top $100bn in 2012

Social network Facebook is likely to go public in the first quarter of next year with a valuation of over US$100 billion, the CNBC business news network reported on Monday, despite reports that the social network’s growth is tailing off in North America.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly stated he is in no hurry to take the social network public, but the network’s report said the company may be forced to do so by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations.

CNBC said Facebook’s decision to conduct an initial public offering could be triggered by an SEC requirement that companies with more than 500 private investors must disclose financial information.

The news network, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said Facebook will likely report it has crossed that threshold at the end of this year. The so-called “500 rule” requires private companies to release quarterly financial reports like public companies.

Facebook is also facing pressure from employees who are not allowed to sell their shares on private exchanges such as SharesPost, where Facebook has been given a valuation of as high as US$85-billion, CNBC said.

Facebook’s valuation is expected to be above US$100 billion when an IPO takes place next year.

Despite rumours of a public listing, a report released this week by Inside Facebook Gold, a Facebook metrics service for marketers, showed that growth of the social networking titan dropped by more than 5 percent in May in the US.

Currently standing at nearly 700-million users worldwide, Facebook continues its growth towards the 700 millionth user. About 155.2 million Americans were using Facebook at the beginning of May, however that number dropped to 149.4 million by the end of the month. The social network also dropped 1.52 million Canadian users over the same period, according to the IFG report.

According to IFG’s figures — taken from Facebook’s advertising tools — typically the social network attracts 20 million new users in a month, however in April it only managed a growth of 13.9 million, which then dropped to 11.8 million sign-ups in May.

The report notes that though there have been cases where monthly growth rates for Facebook have been lower than the expected figure, it is unusual for this to occur on a back to back basis. Nearly 50 percent of Canada’s population is on Facebook however, so it’s likely a case of saturation rather than a lack of popularity slowing down growth.

Jordan Banks, the head of Facebook in Canada commented on the situation in an interview with Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, saying, “I don’t think we’re plateauing at all, when you take a look at the engagement metrics — that’s everything from how many times they come in a given month, to how much time they spent, pages [viewed] — it continues to grow at a very rapid rate.”

Outside of North America however, the news is still good for the California based social network.

In developing nations, Facebook continues to grow steadily. Mexico (23.7 million) and Brazil (17.1 million) accounted for the majority of growth in the developing world in May and Asian nations such as Indonesia (36.4 million) and India (24.9 million) also noted steady growth over the same month.



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