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Facebook files for IPO; hopes to raise $5 billion

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Facebook has filed papers for what's expected to be the largest initial public offering ever to come out of Silicon Valley and one of the largest in U.S. history.

Ending months of breathless speculation, the 8-year-old social networking company has submitted registration documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that set preliminary goal of $5 billion.

Facebook had discussed raising as much as $10 billion. Final pricing will not be set for months, and the size of the IPO probably will increase with investor demand.

The filing sets the stage for an IPO in May.

The important stats right off the bat: 845 million users; 483 million daily users; annual revenue of $3.7 billion; $1.8 billion in operating income and $1 billion net income.

Facebook selected Morgan Stanley as its lead bank to handle the IPO with assistance from four others. Morgan Stanley's resume of recent Internet IPOs includes Groupon and Zynga. Investment banks will receive as much as $500 million in fees depending on the valuation.

Now the frenzy to own a piece of Facebook, already off the charts on private trading exchanges, promises to get even more clamorous.

Facebook, one of the world's best-known brands, is an international phenomenon, touching the lives of more than 800 million people around the globe.

The IPO was inevitable. Facebook had tripped the regulatory wire that forces companies with more than 500 shareholders to disclose almost as much information as publicly traded companies.

The registration documents spell out how much the company intends to raise and what it intends to do with the money and gives the first official glimpse into the company's financial performance.

The IPO will create enormous wealth in Silicon Valley and more than 1,000 new millionaires among the company's 3,000 employees, which many hope will give a boost to the local economy including the housing market and car sales.

Everyday investors are also hoping that as friends of Facebook they will get a chance at a piece of the IPO.

Young technology companies like to say they do things differently. In June when Groupon filed for an IPO, founder Andrew Mason said: "We are unusual and we like it that way."

Google's owner's manual for investors contained a letter to investors from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin offering a similar warning. "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one."

Page and Brin thumbed their noses at Wall Street by demanding an IPO that would be open to all investors. Google used a Dutch auction, which meant that the general public had a better shot at buying the stock before the shares began trading, rather than giving access only to the investors handpicked by the investment bankers.

Facebook is unlikely to hand over control to its Wall Street bankers and is expected to stay true to the vision that founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg dreamed up in his Harvard dorm room.

Facebook created a dual-class stock structure that ensures that Zuckerberg, a hands-on leader, will remain in firm control of Facebook and continue to make key decisions.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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