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Goldman and Russian firm invest $500m in Facebook

Commission keeps tabs on booming trade in private shares as deal values social networking giant at $50bn

Published 04/01/2011 | 05:00

Founder Mark Zuckerberg has been named Time magazine's 'Person
of the Year'. He owns about a quarter of Facebook's shares, and is
one of the world's youngest billionaires. Photo: Getty Images
Founder Mark Zuckerberg has been named Time magazine's 'Person of the Year'. He owns about a quarter of Facebook's shares, and is one of the world's youngest billionaires. Photo: Getty Images

Social networking behemoth Facebook has raised $500m (€374m) from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investment firm in a deal that values the company at $50bn, 'The New York Times' has reported.

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Goldman invested $450m and Digital Sky Technologies invested $50m, the newspaper reported on Sunday, citing people involved in the transaction that it did not name.

Goldman has the right to sell part of its stake, up to $75m, to the Russian firm.

The report said representatives for Facebook, Goldman and Digital Sky Technologies declined to comment.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reportedly looking into the booming trade in privately held shares of popular social networking sites.

A big reason the SEC may be curious about the trading of these popular private start-ups' shares is because once a company hits 500 shareholders, it must disclose certain financial information to the public, even if it has not filed for an initial public offering.

Rule

'The New York Times' reported that Goldman was planning to create a "special purpose vehicle" that may be able to circumvent the 500 shareholder rule because it would be managed by Goldman and considered just one investor, even though it could conceivably be pooling investments from thousands of clients.

Shares of privately held companies can be traded on private stock exchanges such as SecondMarket, based in New York, and SharesPost, based in California.

The shares are generally sold by former employees or early investors in these companies. Only institutional investors or high-net-worth individuals -- those worth more than $1m -- can buy the shares.

But for those who can sell them, the market is on fire. On SharesPost, a completed contract between a buyer and a seller valued shares of California-based Facebook at $25 each.

This implies a valuation of nearly $57bn for the world's largest social network, with more than 500 million users worldwide.

Facebook recently tightened its privacy settings after criticism that personal information was being disseminated without users' knowledge or permission.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg was named 'Time' magazine's 'Person of the Year' and was the subject of a high-profile movie about the creation of Facebook. Mr Zuckerberg, who owns about a quarter of Facebook's shares, is one of the world's youngest billionaires.

The newspaper said the deal may double Mr Zuckerberg's personal fortune, which 'Forbes' estimated at $6.9bn when Facebook was valued at $23bn. (AP)

Irish Independent

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