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Facebook IPO: It's coming, but when?

New rumors have surfaced that a filing is coming, which would catapult a new crop of engineers into the ranks of the 1 percent.

Charles Cooper Former Executive Editor / News
Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.
Charles Cooper
2 min read

When will the market mint a new round of Facebook millionaires? The folks at Business Insider suggest an IPO filing may hit the wires soon, possibly in January.

The sourcing is attributed to someone described in the article as being "close to Facebook employees"--a description that narrows it down to Mr. Bacciagalupe and about 300 million other Americans. But let's preempt the drama and stipulate the obvious: Facebook will go public when--as company management has repeated ad nauseum--the time is right.

But when? That's the tricky part.

Everyone knows that the clock is ticking. In January, when Facebook and Goldman Sachs struck a deal to raise $500 million, the social network shot off a press release noting that it "expected to pass 500 shareholders at some point in 2011, and therefore expects to start filing public financial reports no later than April 30, 2012."

Facebook also has to cater to the needs of its most important constituency: company employees, who are watching bug-eyed as the implied value of their stock options continues to soar. Facebook was worth $15 billion in 2007; its value has since more than quintupled. That has left more than a few Zuckerbergians salivating at the prospect of the "liquidity event" which would catapult them into the ranks of the 1 percent.

Unfortunately for most of them, they only remain filthy rich in their dreams. What with the competition for top-ranked software engineers keener than ever, Facebook needs to be able to offer the same coin of the realm as its publicly-held rivals. The hang-up is that employees who joined before fall 2007 could only sell their stock on secondary markets if they quit the company. Facebook employees who joined after fall 2007 received restricted stock which they can cash in only after Facebook holds its IPO.

As for the timing of the Great Day, given how the world financial markets have a bad case of the blues with Europe's banking system on the verge of a meltdown and the Einsteins in Congress charged with crafting a budget deal again proving their incompetence, this perhaps isn't the best time for a Facebook IPO filing.

One day, though, it will be here.