Facebook Not Selling–Well, Not Yet! And IPO? Try 2010 or Later!
If wishes were horses, all Facebookers would ride!
Unless that is, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stands in front of Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif., HQ, starts loading up an air cannon of money that never ever ends and aims directly at it.
And even then, I expect CEO and Co-Founder Mark “Just Say No” Zuckerberg might say no to that, as he pretty much said today from Tokyo about past rumors of a sale to Microsoft.
He shouldn’t, as this might be the social-networking site’s golden–and I do mean solid golden–opportunity. (Furrier argues this Microsoft-as-Facebook-IPO here.)
And while Zuckerberg would not comment on selling to Microsoft specifically, he was pretty definitive on the subject of Facebook’s independence, as quoted by Reuters, while in Tokyo to launch a Japanese version of Facebook:
“You can tell, from our history and what we’ve done, that we really wanted to keep the company independent, by focusing on building and focusing on the long-term.”
A strong sentiment the 24-year-old Zuckerberg has been firmly voicing since he was, well, 22 years old!
And while “wanted” is in the past tense–a Blue’s Clue for conspiracy-minded tech bloggers, perhaps?–Microsoft bankers querying Facebook execs does not a deal make.
Many sources inside and outside Facebook with knowledge of the company said a sale was unlikely and pointed to an IPO as the exit for its investors.
Not that some Facebookers don’t wish that Zuckerberg would change his mind and sell now.
That’s especially true given Zuckerberg’s mind is the only one that matters in the current balance of power at Facebook.
Why? Well, some people I talk to there are worried about a variety of things, especially the prospect of a big, fat cash-out now versus the very slow road to IPO.
While Facebook investors and even the company have once pointed to 2009 as the earliest for such a liquidity event, many sources both inside and outside the company I talked to said Facebook needed to establish a strong and sustainable business model before it can contemplate that move.
Thus, 2010, 2011. Joked one person close to the company: “Try 2021!”
Ahahahahaaa. (Not quite as funny, of course, if you are now holding a private-plane’s-worth of Facebook shares.)
That’s not to say Facebook and Microsoft aren’t friendly or that Microsoft has been uninterested in grabbing hold of the whole company.
They have been for a long time, as BoomTown reported here.
And top Facebook execs recently visited with Ballmer.
Of course, the company is still swimming in the $240 million in cash from the investment Microsoft handed over and collecting those payments from its guaranteed ad deal with the software giant.
And, best of all, Facebook just faced off with Google (GOOG) over data portability, which Google-hater-in-chief Microsoft doubtlessly is cheering on.
So, while all signs point to close friends with some affectionate hugging, marriage is still not in the cards, if it ever will be.