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Published: Tuesday, 5/8/2012

Facebook CEO starts tour to promote stock offering

REUTERS

NEW YORK -- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc.'schief executive officer, fielded questions about the No. 1 social network's slowing revenue growth and its $1 billion purchase of Instagram as he began a cross-country roadshow to promote the company's $10 billion initial public offering.

Wearing his trademark "hoodie" sweatshirt jacket, jeans, and sneakers, the 27-year-old said he would do the Instagram deal again if he had to, according to people at the event.

Hundreds of investors attended the presentation at New York's Sheraton Hotel, which was closed to the media, on Monday.

The world's largest social network aims to raise about $10.6 billion, dwarfing the coming-out parties of tech companies such as Google Inc. and granting it a market value close to that of Amazon.com Inc.

The eight-year-old social network that began in Mr. Zuckerberg's Harvard dorm room indicated an IPO range of $28 to $35 a share on Thursday, which would value the company at $77 billion to $96 billion.

The IPO could take place as soon as May 18.

Its size reflects the company's growth and bullish expectations about its money-making potential as a hub for activities ranging from advertising to commerce.

Many investors say that they expect Facebook to raise its offer price-range as the roadshow progresses from New York to major cities including Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.

Amid the hoopla of one of the most closely watched IPOs in years are persistent concerns about Facebook's longer-term growth and Mr. Zuckerberg's majority control.

Mr. Zuckerberg, who will have roughly 57 percent voting control after the IPO, personally forged the deal to acquire mobile app maker Instagram in a matter of days last month with little involvement from Facebook's board of directors, according to media reports.

Investors managed to ask five questions during the event on Monday, including a query about Facebook's potential plans to enter China, the world's largest Internet market by users.

Mr. Zuckerberg was accompanied by David Ebersman, chief financial officer, who was wearing a suit and tie, and Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer.

Investors had formed a line outside the Sheraton about an hour before the roadshow started Monday. A nearby media throng awaited the arrival of Facebook executives and elicited inquiries from curious passers-by.

"This is unlike anything we've ever seen," said one investor who was at the event.



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