Facebook accelerating IPO timetable?

Employees at social networking giant reportedly buzzing about pending S-1 filing

Maybe Facebook employees are totally focused now.

Two months ago, CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly planned to push back the social networking company's highly anticipated initial public offering so employees would stay focused on product development instead of their awesomely lucrative IPO payday.

But that "keep them focused" thing was so September! Zuck now appears to have had a change of heart, according to Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson:

A source close to Facebook employees emailed us yesterday to say that the rumor flitting from employee to employee is that "a Facebook S1 filing is coming really soon. Possibly as soon as next month."

"The IPO talk inside Facebook has ramped up the past 6 weeks and Zuck repeatedly has said that it is 'coming,' which he never said in the history of Facebook."

Which, of course, doesn't necessarily mean the IPO is coming soon. Zuck may be just saying that to placate impatient employees who have either stock options or restricted stock units that they can't touch until Facebook goes public.

Let's face it, with the company now valued at about $80 billion in secondary markets, it's probably incredibly frustrating for employees who are so close to a big financial payout to face waiting for nine long months. It could be making them less focused on their jobs.

Or maybe the allegedly accelerated IPO timetable has nothing to do with employees. As I've written before, I've never heard of an IPO decision being made based on anything other than the motives of the underwriters and biggest investors, as well as prevailing market conditions.

Also, no Facebook employees with a lot of stock options or units are going to walk away or quit being productive just because of a six-month IPO delay, which is what we're talking about here because early this year it appeared the company was headed for a potential public stock offering by April 2012.

That's because Facebook was fast approaching the shareholder limit (500) beyond which private companies are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to report financial and operational results. Facebook is looking at having to disclose these numbers by next April.

Since private companies don't always like to report things such as profits, losses or executive compensation -- that's one of the advantages of being "private" - many that cross the 500-investors threshold decide they may as well raise some serious money with a public offering.

So a Facebook IPO early next year would be more in line with the plan reported last January.

The other possible motivation for moving up the IPO from late next year (assuming it actually had been pushed back to then) is to take advantage of a hungry tech IPO market. For all the turbulence on Wall Street over the past few months, daily discount site Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN) had a very successful ticker debut two weeks ago today, despite serious reservations about mounting losses, growth plateaus and questionable management. I'm sure that wasn't lost on Zuckerberg and Facebook's largest investors, including likely IPO underwriter Goldman Sachs.

Even consumer review site Angie's List (NASDAQ: ANGI) -- whose relatively modest IPO raised $114 million -- saw shares climb as high as 44% in their first day of trading on Thursday.

So the demand is there. And Facebook knows it. Sounds like cash-in time approaches.

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