Google raises gavel for IPO auction

Google opened the auction for its much-anticipated initial public offering on Friday, with plans to announce the pricing of its stock this week.

The start of the auction comes after the search company revealed last week that it may have violated certain U.S. securities laws by issuing unregistered shares to employees and consultants in the past, leading to speculation that the IPO would be delayed. The company has offered to buy back the shares in question, in the hope of rectifying the matter.

It also faces a potential breach of a law discouraging company executives from discussing their company's prospects as an IPO nears. The September issue of Playboy magazine carries an interview with Google's founders that could be held to violate the Securities Act of 1933, though the company does not think it has run afoul of the law, Google said Friday in an update to its regulatory filing. The interview was conducted in April, prior to Google's late-April filing of its IPO papers, the company said.

Another tech company had its IPO slowed by a similar media complication. Salesforce.com postponed its offering after its chief executive officer granted The New York Times a lengthy interview, which ran as the company prepared to go public. Salesforce.com delayed its IPO date, but completed the process in June and raised US$110 million in its debut.

Although questions over the possible securities violation have not been completely resolved, Google posted a notice on its IPO Web site late Thursday announcing that the auction would go ahead beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern Time Friday. Potential bidders must have already been registered to participate.

The company's IPO has attracted a frenzy of attention, due to the unusual method and potential money involved. Google executives said that they choose to going public with an auction in an effort to bring more equality to the process, allowing both small investors and large to get a piece of the pie.

The company's pie is considered to be one of the most tasty stock offerings the tech sector has seen since the burst of the dotcom bubble. The sale of 25.7 million shares is expected to net around US$3 billion. What's more, the company estimated that its shares will be priced between US$108 and US$135 each, which could value the company as high as US$36 billion.

The company will trade on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker symbol "GOOG."

(Scarlet Pruitt contributed to this report.)

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