Facebook is about to find out just how much status updates, puppy photos and billions of “likes” are worth on Wall Street.
Facebook’s stock is set to begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Friday, the day after the world’s definitive online social network raised $16 billion in an initial public offering that valued the company at $104 billion. That’s more than Amazon.com and other well-known companies such as Kraft, Walt Disney and McDonald’s.
It’s a big windfall for a company that began eight years ago with no way to make money.
Facebook priced its IPO at $38 per share on Thursday, at the top of expectations. Now, regular investors will have a chance to buy stock in Facebook for the first time. The stock will trade under ticker symbol will be FB.
Facebook’s offering is the culmination of a year’s worth of Internet IPOs that began last May with LinkedIn Corp. Since then, a steady stream of startups focused on the social side of the Web has gone public, with varying degrees of success. It all led up to Facebook, the company that’s come to define social networking by getting 900 million people around the world to share everything from photos of their pets to their deepest thoughts.
It has done so while managing to become one of the few profitable Internet companies to go public recently. It had net income of $205 million in the first three months of 2012, on revenue of $1.06 billion. In all of 2011, it earned $1 billion, up from $606 million a year earlier. That’s a far cry from 2007, when it posted a net loss of $138 million and revenue of $153 million.
“They could have gone public in 2009 at a much lower price,” said Nick Einhorn, research analyst at IPO investment advisory firm Renaissance Capital. “They waited as long as they could to go public, so it makes sense that it’s a very large offering.”
Facebook Inc.’s valuation is the third-highest in an IPO, according to Dealogic, a provider of financial data. Only two Chinese banks, Agricultural Bank of China in 2010 and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in 2006, have been worth more.