Facebook may file to float at any moment

SOCIAL networking giant Facebook could submit the paperwork for its long-awaited public offering as early as this week, taking the first step towards a flotation expected to raise up to $10bn (£6.4bn).

Though the timescale has been vague, this move has been anticipated since late 2011 when it emerged Facebook was nearing the 500 shareholder limit set by the Securities and Exchange Commission and would therefore have to start publicising its finances.

Rumours were reignited when trading in Facebook shares on the secondary market was suspended last week by US law firm Fenwick & West – a move often made by companies before a significant announcement.

The IPO could value Facebook at $100bn, which would place Mark Zuckerberg – who owns a 24 per cent stake in the social website – just outside the top 10 in Forbes’ list of the world’s richest billionaires.

At this valuation, Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin, who studied with Zuckerberg at Harvard, would hold stakes worth $6bn and $5bn respectively.

Napster founder Sean Parker, informal adviser to Mark Zuckerberg and the first president of Facebook Inc, would own a chunk worth $3bn.

Facebook employees, thought to hold between 20 and 30 per cent of company shares, would fare well too.

Facebook’s flotation will top off a string of keenly-watched technology IPOs – which included LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga last year – and would far surpass the $1.67bn raised by Google when it floated in 2004, reaching a market capitalisation of around $27bn. Google is worth $189bn today.

Facebook is thought to have hired Morgan Stanley to advise on the listing, with Goldman Sachs offering further support and Brunswick managing public relations.