OMG! Facebook reportedly filing next week for IPO! I am not making this up!

Sources tell WSJ that social networking giant could file next week to go public

From the "It's Time to Speculate Once More About Facebook's Initial Public Offering" Dept., the Wall Street Journal writes Friday that the usual unnamed "people familiar with the matter" say the social networking giant could file as early as next week for an initial public offering that could value the company between $75 billion and $100 billion.

This would seem to confirm the last speculation about Facebook's IPO, which I shamelessly engaged in 11 days ago. Back then it was rumored that Facebook was planning for an IPO in the third week of May, meaning it would have to file an S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission by mid-February at the latest to meet that goal.

Sounds like that's a cinch, since one of the WSJ's top-secret sources said Facebook could file by as early as next Wednesday. But wait! That same top-secret source said company executives "are also considering filing a few weeks later," the WSJ writes. Don't toy with us through the WSJ, top-secret source!

Facebook reportedly will seek to raise up to $10 billion in the offering, which the WSJ says would make it the fourth-largest IPO among U.S. companies, trailing only Visa, General Motors and AT&T Wireless. (Quick digression: I really like this AT&T commercial.)

And when it does, the lead underwriter may be Morgan Stanley, which reportedly has the inside track over Goldman Sachs. I like the IPO more already.

Actually I don't. I just loathe Goldman. I'm still skeptical of the IPO. Facebook may have 800 million users, but a lot of them are members in name only. (I was one until I killed off my account recently.) Its period of hypergrowth is over, and should another service eventually steal its cachet, Facebook could end up like Myspace. Don't think it can't happen.

As far as the financials, we'll have to wait for the S-1. I'm also very curious to see what Facebook considers to be the major risk factors facing its business. Backlash from perceived privacy violations and "Facebook fatigue" -- people just getting tired of living their entire lives on Facebook -- strike me as genuine threats to the company's prospects.

I've always been cynical of Facebook, though I try not to let that color my objectivity. But my cynicism is dwarfed by that of this commenter on the WSJ article linked above:

It's like a race to the bottom of humanity. ... Facebook is worthless. Big brands know they can just post messages on their "Walls" versus spending money on campaigns, leaving those annoying "text ads" for sleep apnia and "mortgage help" to the dregs of the business world ... or to other dotcom IPOs in the making (wait, those are the same thing).

Short the IPO? Well, I probably wouldn't ... my view, and those of other intelligent, objective investors, is set to be OVERWHELMED by the coming TIDAL WAVE of breathless PRAISE for the IPO, as Morgan Stanley, Goldman and the other cadre of investment bankers required to arrange the $10 billion IPO, along with their social media hacks (paid and the dumb "Twitterers" who think that this is some sort of MAJOR EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY) rave about it.

He's right about one thing: The shill-fest will be overwhelming and (to me) nauseating. And when the IPO finally hits, expect the following:

* First-day buyers swept up in the manufactured mania eventually will end up losing a lot of money once shares plummet from their artificial debut highs. That's shaping up to be the fate of first-day investors in a number of social media IPOs from last year.

* The social media bubble will fizzle. After all, what can top the Facebook IPO? Once that's gone, everything else is anticlimactic.

* The secondary markets for shares of private tech companies will go back to being invisible and generally ignored by the media once the big fish has left the pond. Stories about LivingSocial's pretend value based on secondary share prices just won't generate the same page views.

* Many journalists and bloggers who pass along unattributed information from self-interested anonymous sources about Facebook's awesome IPO will be a little sad, because that party will be over.

As for me, I'll be relieved that the hype for the Greatest IPO in the History of IPOs will be over.

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