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Facebook IPO: Nothing new learned

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal got a huge amount of attention for reporting that Facebook is preparing to go public next year in an IPO that could value the company in excess of $100 billion. It became the top story on HuffingtonPost, and got prominent links/rewrites everywhere from Reuters to Drudge.

Huh? I’ve read the WSJ story several times, and can’t find any information that hasn’t been previously reported. The only exception would be that Facebook may raise $10 billion via the offering, but that’s a working figure that Biz Insider’s Nicholas Carson suggested back in May. In fact, much of the existing info comes from earlier articles in the… wait for it… Wall Street Journal!

Here’s a quick selection, which took approximately 19 minutes of research to compile:

  • January 3, 2011
    Associated Press: “Wedbush Morgan analyst Lou Kerner, who has been bullish on social media and Facebook in particular, says Facebook is well worth $50 billion… Kerner thinks the company could trade at $100 billion if it went public.”
  • March 17, 2011
    WSJ Venture Dispatch blog: “Judging by all the price talk out there, its valuation could be above $75 billion, maybe even $100 billion, by 2012 when it expects to hold its IPO.”
  • May 1, 2011
    WSJ: “Goldman’s and Digital Sky Technologies’ investment reported early this year was at a share price that implied a $50 billion valuation for Facebook. The people familiar with the company’s recent finances said they thought its profit was growing at a fast-enough clip to justify a valuation of $100 billion or more when it goes public.”
  • May 17, 2011
    Agence France Presse: “Morningstar IPO analyst Bill Buhr agrees that market appetite for social-media stocks is understandable, but not necessarily justified. ‘If you consider Facebook, for instance they’re talking about a $100 billion valuation.'”
  • May 25, 2011:
    Business Insider: “How big of a competitive advantage do Mark and Sheryl think it will be for Facebook to have $10 billion or so in cash available.”
  • June 13, 2011
    CNBC: “Facebook, the social-networking site that is one of the most closely-watched private companies in the world, is likely to go public by the first quarter of 2012, say people familiar with the matter, at a valuation that could be pegged at north of $100 billion.”
  • June 28, 2011
    WSJ Deal Journal blog: “Investment bankers have been knocking on Facebook Inc.’s Palo Alto doors for several months already, pitching their wares to the social networking company, ahead of an initial public offering. The event is expected to happen next spring at a possible valuation of $100 billion. Wall Street’s big banks all want a piece of it.”
  • July 14, 2011
    WSJ: “Today, transactions of Facebook stock on private marketplaces value it at about $84 billion. Some people believe that if Facebook goes public next year, it will trade at a $100 billion valuation”
  • September 14, 2011
    NY Times: “The company is still planning to go public in the first half of next year, people close to the matter said on Wednesday.”
  • November 18, 2011
    Business Insider: “A source close to Facebook employees emailed us yesterday to say that the rumor flitting from employee to employee is that ‘a Facebook S-1 filing is coming really soon. Possibly as soon as next month.'”

Moreover, yesterday’s story is explicitly indefinite. It says that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “hasn’t made any final decisions,” nor has Facebook formally selected bankers. So what is new here?

Look, I understand the business value of a big “Facebook IPO” headline. It drives pageviews and gets link love from those who weren’t previously paying attention (and, yes, I recognize the irony of this very post). But could we put a moratorium on these sorts of stories until Facebook actually takes a specific step toward listing? Or, at the very least, stop hyping those who rehash old information.

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