SEC gives thumbs-up to Google

Search company clears one of last major IPO hurdles, and shares could begin trading as early as Thursday.

Google can set its share price and begin selling shares to the public in the next 15 days, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday.

The decision means Google has cleared one of the last major hurdles ahead of its highly anticipated IPO. The search engine company still needs to set the price, which is expected to be between $85 and $95 a share, according to documents filed Wednesday with the SEC.

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Shares could begin trading as soon as Thursday.

"Google has been declared effective with regard to their IPO," Amy Best, an SEC spokeswoman said Wedesday shortly after the stock market closed.

The SEC clearance lifts the curtain on Google's long-awaited IPO, ending speculation that the deal would be delayed. The regulators have been looking closely at the offering in recent weeks because of several miscalculations on Google's part, including failing to register as many as 28 million shares issued to insiders and generating publicity during the SEC-mandated quiet period. Some people had suggested the SEC would impose a "cooling off" period before the deal.

Even with the green light, however, Google is still subject to SEC investigations, according to federal regulators. The company is still undergoing an inquiry by the SEC and state regulators into its unregistered shares. It could also be subject to charges of securities fraud because of an article appearing in the September issue of Playboy magazine, according to Google's SEC filing.

Google spokesman David Krane declined to comment and would not indicate when the company would price its shares.

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