Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Facebook's capital idea helps avoid IPO scrutiny

Could the example of Facebook amount to one of the finest instances of having one's corporate cake and eating it?

Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old founder of the social network giant and the world's youngest billionaire, has managed to raise a vast amount of capital for his ubiquitous creation.

Yet he also also been able to avoid the rigours and scrutiny of an initial public offering and listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

In a dream come true for any entrepreneur, investment bank Goldman Sachs and other sugar daddies have flooded Facebook with $500m. Goldman Sachs is now offering shares in Facebook to some of its wealthiest clients, who received an e-mail on Monday inviting them to partake.

But the number of Facebook investors must stay below 500 or the company will be required to reveal its financial results, an act which would be repugnant to the self-effacing Zuckerberg.

The deal puts the value of Facebook at $50bn, putting a price on each of its users of $100 - though its unlikely more than 10 of those 150m users would have the financial heft to buy as much as a page of the mighty Facebook.

Analysts have contrasted Zuckerberg's bashfulness at the prospect of IPO with the more gung-ho approach of web companies like Pets.com and lastminute.com, which rushed to the altar of IPO with indecent haste. That flurry prompted the dot.com bust of 2000, a factor which is thought to account for Zuckerberg's reluctance to hurry to the stock exchange.

David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, said: "Mark would absolutely prefer not to have an IPO until he absolutely has to.

"He absolutely doesn't want to sacrifice control because he believes that his vision is necessary to keep powering the company forward."

Mr Zuckerberg's empire-building may also not leave much time for the obligations of being public but not everyone can enjoy the luxury of putting off a public offering. "If you are a semi-conductor, or a bio-tech company, or an enterprise software company, you are not going to have investors throwing money at you without any disclosure."

Almost 5,000 users have now professed to 'liking' Goldman Sachs on its Facebook profile.

Both parties will be fervently hoping that the mutual appreciation can last.

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