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Facebook multi-billion dollar IPO 'set for May 18'

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

© PA Images

The scramble for a piece of Facebook is to begin on May 18, after a source close to the process confirmed the date of a planned initial public offering for the world's largest social network.

According to reports in AllThingsDigital and the Wall Street Journal, the roadshow for Facebook's stock float will get underway next Monday (May 7), and Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will be involved.

It is expected that the process will take one to two weeks to complete, and the shares are likely to start trading on the US stock market on May 18.

However, a particularly good response to the IPO roadshow could result in the process beginning a few days earlier.

Zuckerberg, who has near-absolute control over the company, had angered some on Wall Street by not attending an analysts' meeting in March, instead passing on the responsibility to chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and chief financial officer David Ebersman.

However, it is thought that the Facebook boss will be involved in the IPO roadshows, which involve company management showcasing their strategy to potential investors.

Facebook hopes to raise at least $5 billion (£3.8bn) in what is expected to be the biggest IPO in Silicon Valley history, eclipsing even the response to Google's float in 2004.

Disappointing first quarter 2012 results for Facebook are unlikely to dampen the massive investor interest in the social network, which has more than 900m members worldwide.

The company, founded in Zuckerberg's college dorm room in 2004, is thought to value itself at around $77bn, but estimates suggest that interest in the IPO could value the company's stock at more than $100bn.

"I have not seen as broad-based interest in an IPO since Google. Investor demand is immense," Scott Sweet, of research firm IPO Boutique, told Reuters.

"I expect a roadshow that will rival all roadshows where investors will be turned away at the door."

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