Facebook is about to start the process of becoming a public listed company this week, with various online rumours valuing the site up to $100 billion.
The mega amount has spilt industry opinion and forced many to wonder whether a second dotcom bust is around the corner. Companies are being valued at ever-increasing numbers, out of touch with what they would probably be worth if they were traditional bricks and mortar businesses. Facebook, which is still a privately owned company, has been rumoured to be gearing up for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for some time, waiting for the right conditions in the market to cash in.
If Facebook was to achieve $100 billion market value, it would make rival Google's chart topping $1.9 billion IPO in 2004 look puny, and raise the organisation around $10 billion in cash to continue to take the fight to the search giant as they battle against each other in the social networking space.
Strangely though, although it doesn't have to report its accounts publicly, Facebook is reported to have had a turnover of around $1.6 billion in 2010. That's a far cry from Google's latest quarterly revenue over the last 90 days, which saw the company earn $10 billion.
So why so much?
There are a number of reasons why many believe Facebook is being valued as at much as it is. Firstly, the company has had a large amount of investment from venture capitalists and private investors and those parties are keen to see a return.
Then there is the notion that Facebook may actually have run out of cash and willing investors in order to continue at its current pace. Raising $10 billion will refill those coffers quickly, and above and beyond what they could get from more investment. It would also allow those that have got in early to release some of the cash they put in.
We've all seen the movie and how the first wave of cash from the VCs was just $500,000. So there's a pretty good return to possibly cash in on.
There is also a sense that if Zenga, a games platform that runs on Facebook, is worth $1 billion after its recent IPO, then $100 billion for the host site and social phenomenon seems reasonable. Of course, you might disagree with that entirely, but there is no doubting one fuels the other, especially in such a small ecosystem.
But Facebook also taps into the current currency de jour at the moment; people, and the power to reach them. Facebook has over 800 million users on the social network, all telling it how they spend their time, what they like, what music they perhaps listen to and plenty more in between. The notion here is that by knowing this, the potential for advertisers to target people specifically is huge. That's why Facebook is being valued at such a high price.
Bust time again?
There are many, including media mogul Rupert Murdoch, that feel that the Facebook valuation is just too high:
"Facebook a brilliant achievement, but $75-$100bn? Would make Apple look really cheap," said Rupert Murdoch on Twitter, before going on to say that he was happy about the decisions he made with MySpace. "Nothing wrong with MySpace price. Just our totally screwing up every way. Agree Facebook revenues will zoom, but still Apple cheap."
The worry is that Facebook could burst the bubble once again if it fails to impress the market at the IPO or in the months following the offering. It was a fear that traders had in 2004 when we were talking about the value of Google. Whether the market and Facebook are able to justify the offering will have to be seen, but one thing is for certain, this is likely to be a big bang moment that we are unlikely to see again for another 10 years.
Grab your popcorn because either way it's going to make a great sequel for The Social Network.
What do you think? Is Facebook worth such a staggering amount of money? Let us know in the comments below...
Pic: (CC) JD Lasica, socialmedia.biz