Facebook in massive stock flotation
Facebook could be heading for a record stock flotation after unveiling plans to sell shares to the public.
The social networking site aims to raise five billion US dollars (£3.15 billion) in what is expected to be the biggest initial public offering (IPO) from an internet company.
Eight years after it began, the company now has 845 million monthly users worldwide and last year made a profit of one billion dollars (£631 million).
Registration documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also reveal that founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, 27, owns 28.4% of Facebook.
The documents do not include Facebook's market value, but reports suggest it could be as much as 100 billion dollars (£63 billion).
Facebook hopes to raise five billion dollars in its IPO, which would be the most for an internet company since Google raised 1.9 billion dollars in 2004.
In a personal letter, Mr Zuckerberg stressed that Facebook's "social mission" was to "make the world more open and connected". He added: "We don't wake up in the morning with the primary goal of making money, but we understand that the best way to achieve our mission is to build a strong and valuable company.
"This is how we think about our IPO as well. We're going public for our employees and our investors. We made a commitment to them when we gave them equity that we'd work hard to make it worth a lot and make it liquid, and this IPO is fulfilling our commitment.
"As we become a public company, we're making a similar commitment to our new investors and we will work just as hard to fulfil it."
In its most recent survey of the richest people in the US, Forbes magazine estimated Mr Zuckerberg's wealth at 17.5 billion dollars (£11 billion). The documents make clear that he will retain majority control of the business after the flotation and will be paid a reduced salary of one dollar from January 2013.