The social networking site for professionals, LinkedIn, is close to filing for a stock market flotation in what could be one of the hottest initial public offerings of the year. The company is understood to be putting the finishing touches to a regulatory filing that will lift the lid on its business, with trading in its shares expected to begin within a few months.
While much of the hype among technology investors has focused on the question of a Facebook flotation, LinkedIn has hired Morgan Stanley and other big Wall Street firms to solicit investors for a sale that is likely to value it at more than $2bn (£1.3bn).
LinkedIn had more than 85 million members by the end of last year and, unlike Facebook, it charges many of them for premium services, such as the ability to connect easily with potential business contacts or employers. It also makes money from selling adverts on the site, and from charging recruiters who want easy access to its members. Its impending filing, which some reports suggested could come as early as last night, is likely to show the company had $200m in revenues last year, and that it has been cashflow-positive for several years. About half its members are in the US.
LinkedIn was launched in 2003 by Reid Hoffman, an alumnus of the management of PayPal, whose sale to eBay made millionaires of several Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs. He remains on the board of LinkedIn, whose chief executive is now Jeff Weiner, formerly of Yahoo!.
Mr Weiner said recently that the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook was the difference between people's professional and social personas. "While many of us in college were in parties having a good time doing things like keg stands, I don't know that many of us would look forward to a potential employer having access to that," he said. "For the most part, people want to keep their personal lives and their professional lives separate."