Facebook Inc., one of the world's hottest technology companies, gave the clearest sign yet that it is preparing to take itself public sometime next year, as it revealed new details in a 100-page document sent to a select group of potential investors.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook, of Palo Alto, Calif., said it plans to increase its number of shareholders above 500 this year, according to the private-placement document, forcing the social-networking company to begin disclosing reams of financial information or go public by April 2012.
The Journal notes that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said he is in no rush to go public, but those intentions have been hotly contested since the company launched an equity offering of as much as $1.5 billion through Goldman Sachs Group Inc. earlier this week.
Frenzied investor interest in the deal, offered solely to Goldman partners and handpicked clients of the securities firm, has put a stamp of approval on the $50 billion valuation of Facebook implied by its agreement with Goldman and Digital Sky Technologies for a $500 million infusion from the two companies.
According to the paper, strong demand and sharp increase in Facebook's value from $10 billion in mid-2009 give Zuckerberg, other Facebook executives and its relatively small circle of investors a potentially irresistible incentive to take the fast-growing company public despite the downside of doing so. As a private company, Facebook isn't required to report its revenue, profits or losses, and executive compensation, as publicly traded companies must do.
A Facebook spokesman declined to comment for the report, as did Goldman Sachs.