Facebook is officially the biggest internet flotation of all time, after the social network priced its shares last night at the top of its expected range and set a value for the company of $104bn (£66bn).
That put a $19.1bn valuation on the personal stake of Mark Zuckerberg, the 28-year-old entrepreneur who founded Facebook in his Harvard University dorm room eight years ago and whose creation has revolutionised how friends connect and businesses advertise. Such was the excitement surrounding the sale of stock by Facebook that the company could have sold the available 421.2 million shares several times over.
All eyes will now be on the performance of the shares when they begin trading on the Nasdaq stock market at 11am New York time when retail investors will be able to buy stock in the open market for the first time.
Facebook employees were last night celebrating at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, with one of the company's regular all-night "hackathons" when software engineers work on innovative projects.
Mr Zuckerberg will ring the Nasdaq opening bell by remote control from California today.
Some of Facebook's earliest backers are cashing in huge profits at the flotation. Peter Thiel, a founder of PayPal, Goldman Sachs and Alisher Usmanov – Russia's richest man, who owns a $3bn stake mainly through his investment in Yuri Milner's Digital Sky Technologies – are among the investors selling half of their stakes.
Facebook pushed for these investors to make extra stock available and the number of shares on offer was raised by 25 per cent earlier this week. Mr Zuckerberg is selling $1.1bn – mainly, he says, to cover his tax bill. In all, 700 early investors are selling $9.1bn of stock.
A further $6.9bn of sale proceeds will go directly to the company.