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Monday 25 September 2017

Facebook floatation: I won’t be richer that the Beatles says Bono after $1.5bn payday

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg rings the
NASDAQ opening bell in Menlo Park,
California, yesterday
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg rings the NASDAQ opening bell in Menlo Park, California, yesterday
Bono speaking at a conference in Chicago

Peter Flanagan and Anthony Barnes

IT was a date that had been highlighted in finance businesses all over the world, as Facebook finally started trading on the stock market, making millions for investors.

And U2 frontman Bono and his business partners cashed in to the tune of a cool $175m (€137m) yesterday after the investment group he is involved in sold some of its shares in the social network.

As the Dublin-based rocker was becoming richer yesterday, he was crisscrossing the United States with appearances in Chicago and Washington at conferences on world poverty and hunger, at which US President Barack Obama called for a new phase of African farm aid to lead the fight against hunger and nutrition.

Bono's company, Elevation Partners, sold just over 4.6 million shares in Facebook at the opening price of $38 (€30).

That translates into a sale worth $175,654,848 to Elevation. Despite the windfall, though, tax authorities here are unlikely to see anything Bono earns on his investments with Elevation. It is a US company, as are all of its portfolio companies, so capital gains tax would be levied there rather than by Revenue here.

Facebook's first day of trading, known as an initial public offering (IPO), ensures Bono's firm will make an estimated profit of about $1.5bn. But while the flotation means Elevation is worth way in excess of €1bn, Bono is joined by nine other directors who stand to profit.

And the rock star has laughed off claims he will become a billionaire on the back of the Facebook flotation.

"Contrary to reports, I'm not a billionaire or going to be richer than any Beatle -- and not just in the sense of money, by the way, the Beatles are untouchable -- those billionaire reports are a joke," he said.

Up until the Facebook investment, Bono and his firm had lost an estimated $250m in the business media company Forbes, while an investment in the mobile phone company Palm was on course to be a big loser until the company was bought and Elevation got its money back.

Speaking yesterday, Bono said his job as a musician had driven his interest in technology and investing.

"I got interested in technology because I'm an artist. I'm interested in the forces that shape the world.

Message

"Technology is huge. I wanted to learn about it. And people say it's odd you're a musician. I think it's odd that artists are not more interested in the world around them. I'm always chasing that," he added.

Meanwhile, some of Facebook's 901 million users yesterday were congratulating it on the flotation as they might a friend on the birth of a child.

"Hey Facebook! Have a good first day on the stock market," a swimming pool repairman from California, wrote.

Later, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg sent a message to newly wealthy employees of the largest social-networking service: "Stay focused and keep hacking."

The words were emblazoned on T-shirts handed out during a gathering of more than 2,000 people at the company's Menlo Park headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

They were there to watch Mr Zuckerberg ring a bell, remotely, marking the opening of trading on the Nasdaq in New York City.

"Right now, this all seems like a big deal. Going public is an important milestone in our history," said Mr Zuckerberg.

"But here's the thing: Our mission isn't to be a public company.

"Our mission is to make the world more open and connected."

Irish Independent

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