Facebook is going public. The world's largest social media network filed documents late Wednesday for its much anticipated initial public offering (IPO). Analysts say the initial offer will raise about $5 billion in the first go around, making it one of the biggest in recent history. We take a look at how much the company is worth and what that could mean for investors.
With more than 800 million users worldwide, Facebook is second only to Google as the most visited website on the Internet.
But with plans to raise an initial $5 billion from its first IPO, analysts say the company is poised to become one of the richest.
Equity analyst Anupam Palit at Greencrest Capital says when it comes to social media, nothing even comes close to Facebook.
"It is the biggest company in this space and we believe what makes it very unique from every other company that went public last year in this space is that it is very, very profitable," said Palit.
How profitable? Early estimates suggest the social network is worth between $50 to $100 billion. David Kirkpatrick is author of The Facebook Effect:
"Will Facebook's IPO be the biggest IPO in American history, probably not, but it will certainly be by far the biggest Internet or technology IPO we've ever seen," said Kirkpatrick.
And when ticker symbol FB starts trading a few months from now, it could make Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg - at 27 - one of the world's youngest billionaires.
Institutional investors are likely to get the first shot at buying Facebook stock. But asset manager Jim O'Shaugnessy says that's not such a bad thing.
"Many IPO's come out being very, very overvalued because they get so hyped up and investors are so taken in by the story that they're willing to pay any amount just to be able to get into the stock," said O'Shaugnessy. "That generally translates to being very overvalued. So we generally tell investors that they should wait, probably a good full year before they look at buying stock that was recently IPO'd."
Market performance for Internet IPO's often does not live up to the hype. The most recent - LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga, all saw share prices plummet as much as 25 percent after going public.
There were similar doubts about Google when it went public in 2004. Back then Google stock sold for $84. Today it's worth almost $600 a share.
Despite the risks, analysts say there's no shortage of investors willing to take a chance on the next big thing.