Facebook Valued At £59bn Ahead Of Flotation

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Facebook has announced a stock market flotation valued at up to $95bn (£59bn), making firm founder Mark Zuckerberg worth around £11bn.

The company that turned the online socialising into a cultural phenomenon has disclosed that its share price range will be $28 to $35 per share in its initial public offering (IPO), on May 18.

Facebook's IPO will be the biggest ever for an internet company, towering over the previous internet launch record set by Google (NasdaqGS: GOOG - news) at $23bn (£14.2bn) in 2004, now valued at about $200bn (£124bn).

According to investment bank Renaissance Capital, up to 2.74 billion shares will be registered when priced a day before the May 18 launch.

Some 388 million will be offered for public sale, netting current shareholders around $13.6bn (£8.4bn) - far more than the $1.9bn (£1.1bn) raised by Google in 2004.

Facebook's float has been highly anticipated and software developer Mark Zuckerberg, who turns 28 this month, has remained at the helm since it started as an online hangout for university students in 2004.

The next step is an "IPO road show," where executives talk to potential investors about why they should invest in the stock, which will appear on the Nasdaq (Nasdaq: ^NDX - news) under the symbol FB.

On Thursday, it posted a version of its road show online, with appearances from Mr Zuckerberg, and other key executives, who said that the online version was consistent with its focus on "authentic, engaging information".

"We think people's lives will be better and really that the whole world will function better when there is more information and understanding out there," Mr Zuckerberg said.

Mr Zuckerberg will likely own around 31.5% of Facebook's outstanding stock after the flotation, making him personally worth about £11bn, and yet to the concern of some investors he will control around 60% of the voting rights.

With billionaire status Mr Zuckerberg ranks at 35 on the Forbes list of the world's richest people, above the likes of Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT - news) 's Steve Ballmer.

Despite the frenzy surrounding Facebook's flotation not all IPO watchers are impressed, after first-quarter revenue growth of 45% from a year earlier declined 6% in the fourth quarter.

Francis Gaskins, president of IPOdesktop.com, said: "The company is entering a maturation process. I think their core business slowed more than they thought for the past four months."

With a valuation of around half of Google's, Facebook still only brings in around 10% of the search giant's advertising revenue.

"Can it figure out new and innovative ways of monetising its massive 900-million user base? Can it create a Google-killing social search?" said investment expert Conor Sen.

"Facebook isn't priced for perfection. It's priced as if its business will be something else entirely in five years. Maybe it will be, but I'm not counting on it."