Facebook Set for History-Making Stock Sale

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 10:20 am (UTC-5)
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Facebook, the world's biggest social media website, will begin its eagerly awaited first day as a publicly traded company on Friday.

Stock in the California-based company will sell for $38 a share when trading begins on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange . The initial public offering — the opening price at which investors can buy a share — is expected to raise about $16 billion, making it one of biggest stock debuts in U.S. corporate history, rivaled only by financial services company Visa and automaker General Motors.

The stock offering has driven Facebook's value to at least $104 billion, making it one of the most valuable U.S. companies.

Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, started the popular social networking site just eight years ago in his college dorm room at Harvard. On Friday, he was set to remotely ring the bell from company headquarters to start Facebook stock trading on the Nasdaq exchange in New York.

Even with the public sale of stock, however, Zuckerberg, who turned 28 earlier this week, will still control more than 55 percent of Facebook's voting stock.

Some analysts expect millions of Facebook shares will be purchased because of the high demand to own part of such a ubiquitous and recognized product. The stock will be traded under the symbol “FB.”

But others are advising clients to wait and see whether the company can still continue to grow and how much advertising it can sell before buying shares.

Facebook's advertising revenue growth has slowed in recent months, and doubts about its long-term viability were heightened earlier this week when General Motors announced it was pulling its paid advertising off the website.

“The reality is, I think a lot of investors are really going to be very much focused on the short-term financial results, but because the company and its CEO presumably won't be, we think there are going to be ample opportunities for disconnects in the marketplace which could disappoint and frustrate some.”

Facebook has also yet to devise a strategy to attract advertising on mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.

Facebook has more than 900 million users worldwide. People use Facebook to post photographs and write details about their lives, often reconnecting with long-lost friends and family members.