Facebook IPO poised to be America's biggest ever

Facebook could be valued at up to $96 billion when it goes public this year. 

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    The Facebook IPO draws nigh.
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Yesterday Facebook estimated it would sell shares of the company for between $28 to $35 – enough for a valuation of between $77 billion and $96 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. To put that in perspective, Facebook is about to be the most valuable US company ever to go public: United Parcel Service, by comparison, heretofore the record holder, went public in 1999 with a valuation of $60.2 billion. 

"Many people want to own this unique company, and it has the momentum," Kathy Smith of Renaissance Capital told USA Today. She's right: Facebook has grown at an astonishingly rapid clip since it launched in 2004 in a Harvard dorm room – first to a quarter million users, then a half million, and now, in 2012, to 900 million. Smart money is on the site cresting a billion users before the year is out. 

So is it all smooth sailing for Facebook? Well, not necessarily. As the Wall Street Journal points out, there is some reason to be skeptical about the IPO: revenue at Facebook is down six percent from the past quarter. And CEO Mark Zuckerberg must demonstrate that his business model will be effective in the longterm. "There's still no good understanding for what advertisers are paying for," Morningstar analyst Rick Summer told the Journal today. 

Recommended: 10 best Facebook apps and games

In order to help gin up excitement, and to convince investors that Facebook deserves the high valuation, Facebook exec are meeting with analysts and bankers at institutions such as JP Morgan, which is helping to underwrite the IPO, MSNBC reports. Facebook has also released a long pitch video, featuring a litany of Facebook execs, including Zuckerberg. In the video, COO Sheryl Sandberg stresses the reach of Facebook. 

Every day on Facebook is like the season finale of American Idol, "times two," Sandberg trumpets in the video. 

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