Investors brace for Facebook debut on Wall Street

MENLO PARK, Calif., Fri May 18, 2012 – Investors are bracing for Facebook’s Wall Street debut on Friday after the world’s No.1 online social network raised about $16 billion in one of the biggest initial public offerings in U.S. history.

Valued at $104 billion, Facebook is larger than Starbucks Corp and Hewlett-Packard combined, sparking intense speculation on how much higher its valuation will rise once shares start trading.

“A 15 to 20 percent pop is in the realm of possibility,” said Tim Loughran, a finance professor at the University of Notre Dame. “Given they already moved their IPO range up and increased the size, that’s bullish to begin with.”

Facebook priced its offering at $38 a share on Thursday, but the price could be higher when shares begin trading under the FB symbol on the Nasdaq at around 11 a.m. Eastern Time.

Some expect shares could rise 30 percent or more on Friday, despite ongoing concerns about Facebook’s long-term money-making potential. An average of Morningstar analyst estimates puts the closing price for Facebook shares tomorrow at $50.

The IPO, expected to mint more than a thousand paper millionaires at the company, has received wall-to-wall media coverage and sparked hopes of a boom in sales of everything from San Francisco Bay Area real estate to automobiles.

Facebook employees marked the event with an all-night “hackathon” at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters starting on Thursday evening, a tradition in which programmers work on side projects that sometimes turn into mainstream offerings.

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