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Facebook confirms $5bn stock market flotation plans

By and Andrew Laughlin
Facebook has confirmed plans to float on the stock market, in what is expected to be the biggest ever sale of shares by a US internet company.

Mark Zuckerberg said that the world's largest social network is seeking to raise $5bn (£3.16bn), which is around half the amount that was expected by various analysts.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about Timeline during the f/8 conference

© PA Images



Facebook announced its intention to float with the US Securities and Exchange Commission after the markets closed today.

This represents the biggest public float by a technology company in US history, and the $5bn raised would dwarf the $1.67bn generated by Google's float in 2004.

The float provided a first look into the finances of the company that has become one of the biggest online businesses in the world in less than a decade.

It was revealed that founder Zuckerberg owns 28.4% of Facebook, and that the website now has 845 million monthly users, up 39% on 2010's figures. Some 443m members use the site every day, up 48% year-on-year.

While Facebook announced that revenue has risen rapidly, the exact figures were slightly less than expected by experts.

The company produced $3.71bn in earnings in 2011, which was an 88% increase on 2010's $1.97bn. Analysts had estimated that Facebook had produced $4.27bn in revenue last year.

Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, explained in a letter to potential shareholders that Facebook was aiming to continue producing new products and services.

He said: "We don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services. These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits."

However, the company also noted that it was facing increasing competition in the social network space from Twitter and also Google.

Zuckerberg, who turned down a $1bn offer from Yahoo for Facebook in 2006, apparently paid himself a basic salary of $483,333 last year, almost minimum wage in the technology chief executive world.

Facebook's growth in the past year is slower than other technologies that have recently gone public. Groupon jumped 695% for the nine months prior to September 2011, while Google's revenue climbed 29% in 2011.

However, Facebook's net income rose by 65% year-on-year to $1bn in 2011, while it is thought that the firm operates with a 50% gross margin.

The firm's revenue is mainly drawn from its online advertising, and the number of ads on the site rose by 42% in 2011, while the price per ad grew by 18%.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about Timeline during the f/8 conference

© PA Images



The company said that ad price grew because it "was affected by factors including improvements to our ability to deliver more relevant ads to users and product changes that contributed to higher user interaction with the ads by increasing their relative prominence".

Facebook also generated $557 million in revenue through partners who deliver virtual products and social gaming on the network.

It was revealed that Zynga, maker of the Farmville and CityVille Facebook games, made up 12% of overall Facebook revenue last year.

Reports of the Facebook flotation plans have previously been given an estimated valuation of up to $100bn (£63bn) for the company, making it more valuable than Disney and online retailer Amazon.

Morgan Stanley has been appointed to advise Facebook in the float, after it assisted business networking site LinkedIn and Zynga when they went public last year. Goldman Sachs is also involved.

> Facebook reports 5 billion song shares since September

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