Facebook IPO filing addresses mobile, e-commerce

Facebook's draft prospectus hints at its future plans and reveals previously guarded profit and compensation data

Facebook's application Wednesday to sell shares on the open market includes hints about its plans for mobile use and online payments, and reveals previously guarded information about how much its executives get paid.

Facebook filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission so that it can begin selling its shares publicly, likely under the ticker symbol "FB." Regulations in the U.S. require public companies to make significant disclosures of their internal operations.

The amount of space in the 200-page filing devoted to Facebook's "payments" system might surprise most users, few of whom think of the site as a place to spend money. But the social networking company may be looking to change that.

Payments on the site are currently limited to gaming apps, where users can pay real-world money to buy virtual goods or status. The filing suggests that Facebook will expand those payment options to other areas.

"We currently require Payments integration in games on facebook, and we may seek to extend the use of Payments to other types of apps in the future," it says.

Facebook is also focused on keeping up with the shift from desktops to mobile. Of the 845 million active Facebook users in December -- a figure that was up nearly 40 percent from the previous year -- just over half accessed the service from a mobile device.

Although Facebook has already been stepping up its efforts in mobile, it does not currently serve up ads on mobile platforms. The filing spells out that Facebook's ads will have to follow its users over to mobile or the company will see its ad revenue drop.

"Growth in the use of facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results," the company notes among its "risk factors."

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's hoodie-wearing CEO, earned at least US$720,500 last year in salary and bonuses, the filing shows, although in 2012 he has agreed to an annual salary of just $1. Even after the initial stock sale, he will own 24 percent of the company's stock and retain a majority voting interest.

Facebook earned $1 billion in profits in 2011, a 65 percent increase from the previous year. It hopes to raise at least five times that with its stock offering. Eighty-five percent of its revenue last year came from advertising. Most of the rest came from the share that Facebook takes when online gamers, mostly players of Zynga games, spend on the platform.

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Cameron Scott

IDG News Service
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