Tuesday 20 February 2018

Six-figure windfall for Irish-based staff as Facebook plans to float

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerburg
Bono's investment firm owns a 1.5pc stake in Facebook
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

MORE than one-third of Facebook's employees in Dublin stand to earn six-figure windfalls when the social networking site goes ahead with plans to sell shares later this year.

Facebook, which was expected to confirm late yesterday that it would sell shares on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time, could float in May. The initial public offering is expected to value the company somewhere between $75bn (€57bn) and $100bn.

A valuation along these lines would give many of the 400 staff at Facebook's offices in Dublin a stake worth several hundred thousand euro each, according to market sources.

It would also make prominent investors such as Bono even richer.

The U2 frontman's investment vehicle owns a 1.5pc stake in the social networking site that may be worth around $1bn.

Paypal founder Peter Thiel stands to make twice as much and founder Mark Zuckerberg will get around $14bn. Facebook's employees share around 30pc of the company.

Like many companies that are either listed companies, or are expected to go public at some point, Facebook offers share options to the vast majority of its staff.

The difference between Facebook and most other firms, however, is the astronomical valuation being put on the company by experts, which could see enormous windfalls for even lower- and middle-level staff.

Employees own options as either basic stock options or, in most cases, securities known as "restricted stock units" (RSU).

The RSUs all have a vesting period of different lengths, but usually between three and four years, meaning employees who were given their RSUs when Facebook opened their European headquarters in Dublin four years ago will be fully vested and so will be able to cash in their options.

Others may have already sold their shares on the secondary market, which allows trading in private companies.

It is believed the bulk of Facebook's staff in Dublin joined in 2009 or later when the company moved to bigger offices in the Docklands.

Facebook declined to discuss specifics on the RSU scheme but it is common for new employees to engage in intense horse trading around the terms of the share-option scheme when they are joining a technology company such as Facebook, particularly when the employee is leaving another firm where their options have not been vested.

Interest in Mr Zuckerberg's company has reached a frenzy in recent weeks, amid intense speculation in the US that the company will file the necessary paperwork to launch an initial public offering as soon as this week. That would set the company up to start trading in May.

The company was expected to file its "S1" document last night, which acts as both a financial disclosure document and a prospectus for potential investors, setting the wheels in motion for its IPO.

The company is said to be looking to double its office space in Dublin, and is running a major recruiting drive in Ireland.

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