Facebook has indicated it will price itself at between $28 and $35 a share, paving the way for the world's largest social networking site to reach a giddying valuation of almost $100bn when launches its stock market sale in two weeks.
The price range for Facebook's initial public offering of stock (IPO), which was released in a regulatory filing, would value the company at up to $96bn, according to the Wall Street Journal. It would also provide up to $12bn in cash for existing investors and the site's core team.
Mark Zuckerberg, who invented Facebook while studying at Harvard as immortalised in the Hollywood film The Social Network, stands to make up to $19bn personally.
The price range is slightly lower than anticipated, though there is still time for it to slide upwards ahead of a likely start to trading on the Nasdaq which the New York Times says will take place on 17 or 18 May. A ballpark valuation of $100bn had been widely speculated.
Whatever the final figure, the IPO is likely to be the largest for an internet company, dwarfing even the $23bn debut of Google in 2004.
Such staggering sums are a reflection of how ubiquitous the social networking site has become. It crossed the watershed of 500 million users in July 2010 but is fast approaching the day when it will double that number.
The company now has 901 million monthly active users and on current trends is on track to hit the billion mark by the end of the year.
With such reach, comes desirability. The site is gearing up to be a major force in this year's presidential election, with both the Obama re-election campaign and the Mitt Romney campaign putting Facebook at the centre of their strategic plans.
However, there are still bumps and hurdles to be negotiated along the way to Facebook IPO heaven. Last month the company announced that its earnings and revenues had fallen in the first quarter of the year, with profits dropping by 12% from $233m to $205m.
The decline was blamed on rising costs and marketing expenses.
Facebook executives will now spend more than a week travelling the US in what is being billed as a road show, selling the idea of the IPO to potential investors.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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