After years of waiting, one of the most widely-discussed IPOs ever -- that of social networking giant Facebook -- is all but certain to happen this year as the company is forced to make public disclosures in the coming months.
The exact timing of Facebook's IPO has been the source of much speculation, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the wait may be over next week.
Its sources say that papers could be filed with the SEC as early as next Wednesday, with the company seeking to raise as much as $10bn at a valuation of $75bn to $100bn. In raising $10bn, Facebook would be the richest technology IPO ever. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the largest tech IPO ever to date was that of Infineon Technologies, which raised $5.9bn at the height of the .com bubble in 2000.
Obviously, there's a huge difference between $75bn and $100bn, and industry observers will be closely following just how high a valuation Facebook can command. But one thing is certain: Facebook will go public with a valuation few could have imagined a few short years ago.
The big question, of course, is whether Facebook's IPO marks a momentous event in the company's rise, or whether it represents the company's peak. Skeptics of social networking's importance are hard to come by; today there's a broad consensus that social networking is here to stay. But that doesn't mean questions don't linger about Facebook's future.
The massive growth of the company's user base can't continue forever, and there's always the risk that large portions of its user base will eventually tire of the service, particularly as it evolves. Furthermore, while Facebook does have revenue and profit, current revenue and profit alone doesn't seem to justify a valuation of even $50bn. Clearly, for the company to sustain the valuation it will have when it goes public, it will need to monetize at a level far greater than it is doing now.