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Facebook raises IPO price as offering nears

| Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 8:38 a.m.

NEW YORK -- Facebook on Tuesday increased the price range at which it plans to sell stock to the public, as investor enthusiasm in the offering continued to mount and boost the potential value of the world's most popular social network.

The Menlo Park, Calif. company said in a regulatory filing that it now expects to sell its stock for between $34 and $38 per share, up from its previous range of $28 to $35. The IPO is expected to be completed late Thursday and begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market on Friday under the ticker symbol "FB."

The increased range is a sign of high demand from investors to own a piece of the world's most popular social network. The initial public offering is the most hotly anticipated in years and would value Facebook at more than $100 billion.

Facebook is selling 180 million of its shares in the IPO. Another 157 million shares are coming from existing stockholders, including the company's earliest investors and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Even after the IPO, Zuckerberg will remain Facebook's single largest shareholder. And he will control the company through 57 percent of its voting stock.

The IPO is expected to be the largest ever for an Internet company. It is expected to raise more than 10 times as much as the $1.67 billion raised in Google Inc.'s 2004 IPO.

At a value of $38 per share, the high end of Facebook's expected range, Facebook would generate $6.84 billion on its shares. Existing stockholders would collectively make $5.98 billion.

Facebook has more than 900 million users who log in at least once a month.

Even at the higher price range, it's going to be tough for the company's fans and everyday investors to get in on the IPO. Most of the shares are expected to go to people with connections to the company or large, active accounts with one of the big banks or brokerage firms directly involved in the stock sale.

Morgan Stanley leads the team of 33 underwriters selected for the Facebook offering, followed by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

The inclusion of online broker E-Trade Financial Corp. as an underwriter was seen as a glimmer of hope that Facebook might make more shares available than usual for retail investors through discount brokerages. But chances of getting any are very slim regardless.

Analysts say there's so much interest in Facebook's stock that some underwriters are closing their books as early as Tuesday. This means they won't be taking any more orders from potential buyers.

In its Tuesday filing, Facebook also adjusted the timetable for finishing its $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, saying it expects the deal to close sometime in 2012. Previously, it had said it expected to complete the deal in the second quarter.

Some have speculated that the acquisition of the photo-sharing network would come under regulatory scrutiny. If the deal doesn't close by Dec. 10, Facebook could have to pay Instagram a breakup fee of $200 million.

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