Facebook Inc. is considering letting employees sell as much as $1 billion of their shares in an offering that would value the company at almost $60 billion, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
A stock sale would allow large institutions to invest in the social-networking company, according to the people, who declined to be identified because the deliberations are private. Jonathan Thaw, a spokesman for Palo Alto, California-based Facebook, declined to comment.
Facebook recently raised $1.5 billion in a financing round from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Digital Sky Technologies, valuing the social network at $50 billion. Neither Goldman Sachs nor Digital Sky will participate in the new offering, said one person familiar with the matter.
Investor interest is surging because of Facebook’s advertising sales growth and a user base of more than 500 million. Ad spending on the site will more than double to $4.05 billion this year, according to research firm EMarketer Inc.
The stock sale would give a windfall to employees as they wait for an initial public offering, said Larry Albukerk, founder of EB Exchange Funds LLC, a San Francisco-based firm that specializes in private-share sales.
“They don’t want people to leave,” he said. “It would be a smart thing for them to do.”
Facebook plans to start reporting financial results by April 2012, even if it hasn’t held an IPO, according to a document sent to prospective investors. The company would be forced to make disclosures because it expects to have at least 500 shareholders by year-end, a threshold that makes reporting results necessary under U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules, a person who reviewed the document said last month.
In July 2009, Facebook allowed employees to sell as much as $100 million in stock for $14.77 a share under an agreement with Digital Sky, a Russian investment firm.
All Things Digital reported on the potential offer earlier today.