January 14, 2012
The Coming Facebook IPO
Posted by Gordon Smith

In 2010 I blogged about David Kirkpatrick's business history, The Facebook Effect. Earlier this week, the California Legislative Analyst's Office invoked Kirkpatrick's title to speculate about tax revenues from a Facebook IPO. From the Overview of the Governor's Budget:

The Facebook Effect. Facebook Inc., a privately held company headquartered in Palo Alto, may proceed with an initial public offering (IPO) of its stock in 2012. Facebook reportedly is considering issuing $10 billion of stock in an IPO that would value the company at over $100 billion. Other companies also are considering IPOs in the coming years. 

In the coming months, the state’s revenue forecasts will need to be adjusted somewhat to account for the possibility of hundreds of millions of dollars of additional revenues related to the Facebook IPO. These revenues could affect the budgetary outlook beginning in 2012-13. We caution that it will be impossible to forecast IPO-related state revenues with any precision, and it is likely that little information about the state revenue gain from the Facebook IPO will be available before investors file tax returns in April 2013. (Even then, due to the confidentiality of individual taxpayer information, we are unlikely to know precisely how much state revenues increased due to Facebook’s IPO.) 

In considering the size of the Facebook IPO effect in the coming months, revenue forecasters will have a difficult task. Our office’s income models are based on historical trends and, therefore, already assume that some level of IPO activity occurs for California companies each year. Moreover, in our recent forecasts, our office has deliberately built in “extra” capital gains (above those generated by our model) in 2010, 2011, and 2012 to try to account for a variety of factors, including the surprisingly strong PIT receipts in some recent months. Finally, Facebook-related capital gains likely will prove to be a relatively small percentage of California’s overall capital gains in 2012. If the stock market as a whole has an unusually strong or weak year, that fact could change forecasted capital gains up or down by much more than the positive Facebook effect.

In case you missed it, the projected size of the IPO is $10 billion, and the expected valuation of Facebook $100 billion! For a sense of perspective, Google sold $1.67 billion in its IPO in 2004, giving Google a valuation of more than $23 billion.

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