Facebook continues to raise capital with the most recent round of financing from Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies valuing the company at $50 billion. This big number caused a bit of a stir and a lot of debate, with many people seeing the valuation as excessive. Now it appears that Facebook's value has reached about $60 billion (based on employee stock sales). I believe Facebook is worth closer to $100 billion.
Research firm EMarketer Inc. estimates that Ad spending on Facebook will reach $4.05 billion this year, more than doubling year over year. I expect that top line growth will continue to grow rapidly for at least the next five years and perhaps well beyond that. With a valuation of 60 billion, Facebook would be valued at less than 15 times 2011 revenue. This would be expensive for most companies but Facebook deserves a premium valuation.
For comparison sake, Chinese search engine Baidu, which also deserves a premium valuation, is trading at about 37 times revenue. If Facebook was valued at 37 times 2011 sales it would be a $150 billion company! If the company can double sales again in 2012 to $8 billion, a 15 multiple would give it a $120 billion valuation.
It is not yet clear what the margins are for Facebook but I would guess that a lot of the revenue falls to the bottom line. As Facebook's financials become better known I'd expect the valuation will continue to rise.
Today Facebook has more than 500k users but we will likely see a day when Facebook has over 1 billion users. In fact, the 1 billion user mark might not be too far off as the emerging market countries come online and democratic reforms sweep through many regions of the world. Imagine what the numbers would be if China stopped blocking Facebook. Speaking of China, it is rumored that executives from Baidu recently held meetings with Facebook management about partnering on a social product for the Chinese market. Stay tuned.
Looking ahead it is likely that a Facebook branded phone will hit the market in late 2011 or 2012. It is too early to predict what kind of reception this, as of yet unannounced product will receive, but it could show Facebook's interest in expanding it's business beyond Facebook.com. With a huge audience to advertise to a phone from Facebook could gain traction. Already HTC has implemented a Facebook button into a new line of phones which links users directly into their Facebook accounts. As Facebook makes a push into mobile, the competition with Apple and Google will intensify.
With a likely IPO coming in 2012, Facebook's days as a private company are limited. The company has already announced that it will disclose financials by April of 2012 but it is unclear if this will happen before or after Facebook goes public.
If the IPO values Facebook at less than $100 billion I'll be buying shares.
Disclosures: Long AAPL, BIDU, GOOG