Dec 23, 2011

Founder and CEO of the social-networking giant Facebook has spent the last 18 months methodically preparing to look and act more like a blue-chip business.

"There was a period in Microsoft's evolution where they said, we want to put a computer on everyone's desk," said Zuckerberg in a recent interview.

"That's the way that I want to run Facebook...We want to be operating in a way that we're working towards this longer vision of where we think the world should be," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Facebook plans to file early next year with the Securities and Exchange Commission to take the stock public in the second quarter of 2012, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The IPO could raise as much as 10 billion dollars at a valuation of more than 100 billion dollars.

As hard as it is to reach a public offering, it is even more difficult for young businesses to play head-to-head against tech stalwarts such as Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

But interviews with Zuckerberg and others inside Facebook reveal the eight-year-old company is trying to emulate the influence, staying power, and meticulousness of the biggest technology companies.

Since last year, Facebook executives have been crafting dummy scripts for quarterly earnings calls, addressing imaginary questions from analysts about the company's revenue and profit, people familiar with the matter say.

They have even written a top-secret draft of an IPO prospectus, a role traditionally left to bankers.

The company's chief financial officer, David Ebersman, has been professionally auditing Facebook's financial statements each quarter, say people familiar with the matter, and avoiding the accounting approaches that raised questions for Groupon and Zynga.

The company has both scale and a strong brand, says Lise Buyer, a Silicon Valley-based IPO consultant.

But the big question, says Buyer is whether Facebook has the ability to operate profitability through ups and downs.

"The missing piece that we haven't seen yet is reliability. The blue chip stocks are the ones that people talk about belonging in widows and orphans funds. Historically, technology IPOs don't make that list. Because of its scale, Facebook could be different," she said.

The company still has a long way to go to convince Madison Avenue advertisers.

Facebook now has 800 million members.
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