Signs of an upcoming Facebook IPO?

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With the departure of Facebook's finance chief, Gideon Yu, many now wonder if the social-networking goliath might be signaling that it wants to become a public company sooner rather than later.

The five-year-old website is set to break 200 million users this week. This phenomenal growth has attracted gobs of venture capital, but has not managed to help Facebook turn a profit. That may change by next year.

The company says "it had just completed its fifth straight quarter of profitability in terms of Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and is on track to be cash-flow positive by 2010," reported the New York Times this afternoon. The company will achieve this through boosting revenue "at least 70% in 2009 compared with 2008 revenue--far above the estimates of some outside analysts," wrote the Wall Street Journal, citing an anonymous source.

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Pair this with today's news of Mr. Yu's exit. Facebook told several outlets that it wants an executive with "experience running a public company." (For the record, Yu had important finance positions at Yahoo and YouTube before Google purchased it, and spent two years with Facebook.) No word yet on who his replacement will be.

This combination of events had CNET, and many others, wondering if Facebook is hustling "to be on track to file for an initial public offering." The company has hinted that it wants to go public "within the next few years." And, despite the bad economy, if executives believe that profitably is within reach, Yu might be the first of many signs that public stock is on the way.

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