IPO reveals state of Facebook’s finances

Facebook has, as expected, announced its plans for a public offering in what’s expected to be the biggest-ever sale of internet company shares.

The amount it’s intending to raise is at the low end of estimates – $5 billion.

The company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals a wealth of never-before-seen information about its financial position. As a private company, it’s never had to publish detailed accounts.

And the filing shows a company that’s in a stronger financial position than many people believed, and making a serious profit.

Last year, for example, it made a net income of $1 billion, on revenues of $3.71 billion – 65 percent higher than in 2010. That’s a similar revenue to Google’s when it filed for an IPO itself in 2004 – but a much higher profit.

It has 845 million monthly users and 443 million daily users, it says.

Interestingly, the proportion of revenue derived from advertising is falling. While this accounted for 98 percent of revenues in 2009, the figure was just 85 percent last year. The rest comes from in-app purchases, and particularly Zynga – indeed, the filing warns that if support from Zynga wanes, Facebook’s finances could be affected.

Conversely, it’s clear from the filing that Facebook needs to buck its ideas up when it comes to mobile. While the number of mobile users is climbing steadily, there’s not much profit in it for the company.

“Our revenue may be negatively affected unless and until we include ads or sponsored stories on our mobile apps and mobile website,” the filing warns.

In a letter accompanying the filing, founder Mark Zuckerberg claims that Facebook doesn’t build services to make money, but makes money to build services.

“Most great people care primarily about building and being a part of great things, but they also want to make money,” he says.

“Through the process of building a team — and also building a developer community, advertising market and investor base — I’ve developed a deep appreciation for how building a strong company with a strong economic engine and strong growth can be the best way to align many people to solve important problems.”

The filing also reveals that Mark Zuckerberg holds 28.4 percent of the company, meaning he’ll keep majority control. This is because shares will be split into ‘A’ and ‘B’ shares, in which the latter get 10 votes per share, and the former get one.