September 14, 2011, 5:21 PM — Facebook now plans to push back its initial public offering to late 2012 from earlier in the year, the Financial Times reports.
Citing the usual "people familiar with the company," FT's April Dembosky writes that "Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wants to wait until next September or later in order to keep employees focused on product developments rather than a pay-out."
OK, let's assume the anonymous sources are accurate about the planned IPO delay. I'll buy that. I'm not so sure I buy the reason being ascribed to Zuckerberg.
Why would a few months really matter in terms of product development? Will employees stop working hard once they strike paydirt? Some, probably.
But can Facebook say with any certainty that its product-development timeline will stay on schedule next year? What if things get backed up? Will the IPO get pushed back even further?
And wouldn't the anxiety of the delay also be distracting? I'm sure Facebook pays many of its employees very well, but they're not all pulling down six figures. Silicon Valley's a tremendously expensive place to live and work. Even a $70,000 salary isn't exactly going to support a lavish lifestyle.
Also, 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. For example, as the FT points out, both Groupon and Zynga have said the volatile stock market is the reason they've pushed back their respective ticker debuts.
Unlike some commenters over at Mashable, I don't necessarily suspect the delay has to do with lousy numbers. But given the lack of other reasonable theories, it's hard to rule that out.
I will say that I never take any claims made by or about Facebook -- especially via anonymous sources -- at, um, face value. And I'm not going to start now.
But I encourage anyone to speculate up a storm below in the comments section.