Facebook’s IPO: Putting it in context

January 31, 2012

Facebook’s rumored to be filing its paperwork for its initial public offering Wednesday and is reportedly trying to raise $10 billion, which would give it a valuation of $100 billion. How do these numbers match up?

Historically speaking, if Facebook has raised that much for its initial public offering, it would:

— be the sixth-largest U.S. IPO ever, sliding between AT&T Wireless and Kraft Foods.

— be the 15th-largest IPO in global history, behind Glencore International and ahead of Japan Tobacco.

— have an initial public offering more than six times that of Google. Google currently holds the record for the largest technology IPO, according to Renaissance Capital, of $1.66 billion.

— come in with more hype than other technology companies, thanks to a per-share valuation that at least one investment firm predicts will open “north of $100,” Forbes reports. For example, when Apple went public Dec. 12, 1980, it was priced at $22 per share, climbing to $29 by the end of the trading day, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple made less than $100 million by selling stock to the public. Google, according to archives from The Washington Post, was valued at $85 per share, surging to over $100 a share by the end of the day for a market capitalization of $27.2 billion.

— have a market capitalization larger than Disney ($70 billion) or General Motors ($38 billion), if reports that its market cap is expected to be between $75 billion and $100 billion ring true. Compared with its technology peers, however, its market cap would be on the low end of the list, as compared with Google ($187 billion), Microsoft ($248 billion) or, of course, Apple ($422.47 billion). It would, however, outstrip Amazon, which has a current market capitalization of about $87 billion.

The hype is certainly there for Facebook’s IPO,but the question that will dog its heels is whether or not it can buck the trend that’s plagued other technology IPOs in the past few months — whether it can debut strong and keep up the momentum. Although almost a third of all initial public offerings in the past 12 months have been in the technology sector, prominent debuts from Groupon, Zynga, LinkedIn and Pandora have all fizzled quickly.

Zynga, for example, opened at $10 per share and closed at $9.50. The stock has recovered since then, closing Monday at $10.39, but has hardly been the breakaway success that many had hoped for. Similarly, LinkedIn, which skyrocketed from an opening share price of $45 to a first-day close of $94.25, has settled back down to Earth at about $75 per share.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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