BUSINESS

Facebook IPO: Stock goes on sale

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"It's probably one of the first times there has been an IPO where everyone sort of has a stake in the outcome," said Gartner analyst Brian Blau.

While most Facebook users won't see a penny from the offering, they are all intimately familiar with the company.

Earlier Friday, the company's 28-year-old CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, smiled as he rang the opening bell from Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.

Surrounded by cheering Facebook employees and wearing his signature hoodie, he pushed the button that signals the opening of the stock market in New York.

The morning's events followed an all-night "hackathon" at the company, where engineers stayed up coding software and conjuring up new ideas for Facebook and its 900 million users.

"Right now this all seems like a big deal. Going public is an important milestone in our history. But here's the thing, our mission isn't to be a public company. Our mission is to make the world more open and connected," Zuckerberg said. "In the past eight years, all of you out there have built the largest community in the history of the world. You've done amazing things that we never would have dreamed of and I can't wait to see what you guys all do going forward."

Afterward, employees tried to get back to business as usual, building the company under immense new pressure to meet shareholders' expectations.

To remind everyone not to get caught up in the hoopla, Facebook's employees were given t-shirts that read "Stay focused & keep hacking."

On Thursday, Facebook and the investment bankers settled on a price of $38 per share.

The company and its early investors raised $16 billion in the offering, which valued Facebook at $104 billion.

That makes Facebook the most valuable U.S. company to ever go public.

Now, the stock market will begin assigning a dollar value to Facebook that will rise and fall with investor whims.

It will be subject to broad economic forces and held accountable for profit it earns -or loses- from one quarter to the next.

But Facebook is one a rare companies whose IPO transcends Wall Street's money lust. It is a cultural touchstone for the way technology reshapes our lives.

Since its start as a scrappy network for college students, Facebook has come to define social networking by getting people around the world to share everything from photos of their pets to their deepest thoughts.

It has done so while becoming one of the few profitable Internet companies to go public recently. It had net income of $205 million in the first three months of 2012, on revenue of $1.06 billion.

In all of 2011, it earned $1 billion, up from $606 million a year earlier. That's a far cry from 2007, when it posted a net loss of $138 million and revenue of $153 million.

The company makes most of its money from advertising. It also takes a cut from the money people spend on virtual items in Facebook games such as "FarmVille."

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