Facebook gets more friends as 2009 revenues 'hit $900m'

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The Independent Online

The ubiquitous social networking website Facebook achieved revenues of $900m (£608m) in 2009, it was reported yesterday.

The figure not only surpassed previous estimates about its commercial performance but will also have investors clamouring for a flotation of the company.

The six-year-old, privately-owned group refused to comment on the reports last night. Previously, analysts had predicted that Facebook would report revenues of up to $500m for 2009.

Last September, Facebook said it had become free cashflow positive, meaning that it was generating enough income to cover its operating expenses, as well as its capital spending needs. It is also thought that it made several million dollars of net profit.

Facebook is the world's largest social network, with nearly half a billion users. The hugely popular website has been banned from many workplaces. If yesterday's reports are accurate, investors will increase pressure on the company, based in Palo Alto, California, to list. Facebook has previously insisted that an initial public offering is not a short-term priority.

However, the company will be conscious of the experience of other social networking websites that have fallen in popularity and left investors significantly out of pocket. This week, Bebo, the networking site once de rigeur for teenagers, was offloaded by AOL for $10m – a tiny fraction of the $850m it paid for the site just two years ago.

Such was Bebo's poor performance under AOL's ownership, caused largely by the popularity of Facebook, that the US media giant had threatened to close down the website altogether.

Bebo was launched in 2005, the year after Facebook.