With all the buzz about a possible Facebook IPO, here is our best assessment of where things stand right now.
Facebook is reportedly expected to file a form S-1 with the SEC this week. The form will be the first insight into the workings of what has so far been a fairly opaque company. The form will list the company's revenue and profits, and is expected to set the company's value between $75 and $100 billion. This is a required step before a company can begin trading publicly.
It will likely take until May for Facebook stock actually to begin trading on a stock exchange. It is not yet clear which exchange Facebook will trade on.
This is expected to be the IPO event of the year, and possibly the decade. Analysts say that this offering will change the Internet sector, creating what will be one of the largest Internet companies.
Why go public anyway? Under SEC regulations Facebook has to make certain financial information public because the company has more than 500 investors. The deadline to file this information expires in April.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly decided to go public once it became clear that the company had become too big to keep its finances private. By going public, Facebook loses some of it mystery and cool, having to declare profits and losses every quarter - but the company will have access to new cash, it will also be able to use the value of its stock to acquire other companies and to reward its employees.
Facebook's 3,000 employees are now poised to become a brand new gang of Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires.
According to wide speculation and reporting, the form S-1 filing will happen after the stock market closes on Wednesday. The rumor mill has been wrong about this before, though even if there is no filing this Wednesday, there will likely be one soon thereafter.