- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 1, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Facebook, the social network that changed “friend” from a noun to a verb, is expected to file as early as Wednesday to sell stock on the open market. Its debut is likely to be the most talked-about initial public offering since Google in 2004.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company expects to raise as much as $10 billion, though some accounts say it could be less than that. At $10 billion, the company would be valued at $75 billion to $100 billion.

The highly anticipated documents Facebook files with the Securities and Exchange Commission will reveal how much it intends to raise from the stock market, what it plans to do with the money and details on the company’s financial performance and future growth prospects.

A stock usually starts trading three to four months after the filing.

Around the nation, regular investors and IPO watchers are anticipating some kind of twist _ perhaps a provision for the 800 million users of Facebook, a company that promotes itself as all about personal connections, to get in on the action.

After all, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is anything but a conformist. He turns up at business conventions in a hoodie. “Cocky” is the word used to describe him most often, after “billionaire.” He was Time’s person of the year at 26. So when he takes Facebook public, why would he follow the Wall Street rules?

“Pandemonium is what I expect in terms of demand for this stock,” says Scott Sweet, senior managing partner at IPO Boutique, an advisory firm. “I don’t think Wall Street would want to anger Facebook users.”

The most successful young technology companies have a history of doing things differently. Google’s IPO prospectus contained a letter from its founders to investors that said the company believed in the motto “Don’t be evil.”

Facebook declined to comment, but Reena Aggarwal, a finance professor who has studied IPOs at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, believes Zuckerberg will emulate Google’s philosophy, at least in principle.

Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted an IPO accessible to all investors, and said so in their first regulatory filing. Facebook may say something similar when it files to declare its intention to sell stock publicly.

Along with Wall Street investment banks, Google used a Dutch auction, named for a means of selling flowers in Holland, to sell its shares. It took private bids and allowed investors to say how many shares they wanted and what they were willing to pay.

The process wasn’t smooth, though, and Google had to slash its expected offer price at the last minute. If you bought at the IPO, for roughly $85 a share, you still did well: Google closed Tuesday at $580.

More recently, when it filed for an IPO last June, Groupon, which emails daily deals on products and services to its members, added a letter from its 30-year-old founder, Andrew Mason.

“We are unusual and we like it that way,” the letter said. “We want the time people spend with Groupon to be memorable. Life is too short to be a boring company.”

It’s almost become conventional for tech companies to include an unconventional letter when they make their stock market debut. It’s widely expected that Zuckerberg, in the very least measure of showmanship, will write one.

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