Speculation is rife about a potential Facebook IPO rumoured to be taking place sometime this week in what’s being called a defining moment for the internet.

The Wall Street Journal reports that ‘people familiar with the matter’ have said the IPO could come as early as tomorrow in the US. These sources also said that Facebook executives were considering filing in a few weeks’ time or sometime between April and June, so only time will tell.

Facebook is yet to comment on the rumours, however, according to Mashable the social network has shown signs of preparing for public offer having halted its trading in secondary markets for three days last week and is pushing to get Timeline and other product offerings in place. On its blog, Facebook announced that all users will be forced to adopt the Timeline layout in the next few weeks.

Mashable says that, “If and when Facebook does file its S-1 paperwork, it will be forced to enter a ‘quiet period’ – without product announcements, interviews or any other public statements.”

The social network has still given no word though on when Timeline will be rolled out for branded Pages, which has been slated as a creative way for advertisers to engage in social media campaigns.

The Facebook float would be the largest tech IPO in history, anticipated to value the company between US$75 and US$100 billion, well above Google’s post-IPO valuation of US$23 billion in 2005.

It’s reported the company could raise as much as $US10 billion from the IPO, well ahead of the capital raised by tech’s largest IPO to date – $5.9 billion in 2000 by German-based Infineon.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a $10 billion Facebook offering would rank fourth among IPOs for US companies behind Visa, General Motors and AT&T Wireless, and value the social network on level pegging with McDonald’s.

The WSJ says Facebook increased its global advertising revenue from $738 million in 2009 to $3.8 billion in 2011. Data released overnight by comScore shows the social network increased its share of the display ad market, up to 27.9% in 2011, compared with 21% in 2010.

Principal analyst at Ovum, Eden Zoller, says Facebook’s goal is to become the centre of people’s digital lives, and the dominant platform for rich communications, commercial content and advertising.

“Facebook’s user base continues with its impressive growth trajectory which should comfortably pass the one billion mark this year, with particular opportunities to build the base in emerging markets and to extend its reach via mobile devices,” Zoller says.

“The challenge, and it is a big one, is whether Facebook can keep its users active and engaged in a context where Google is pushing hard into social media and many home grown social networks are looking to up their game, notably in China.

“The money raised from the IPO will give Facebook more resources to invest in acquisitions, service innovation and advertising analytics.”


Homepage image derived from this image courtesy Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0