Facebook on Thursday set a price range for its hotly anticipated public offering that would value the social network between $70-billion and $87.5-billion.
A regulatory filing calls for shares to be priced between $28 and $35, which would set a company value below some estimates of $100 billion for the world's biggest social network.
At the midpoint of the price range, the sale of 337 million shares would generate $10.6-billion, making Facebook's offering the largest IPO of a tech firm and one of the biggest on US soil.
The net proceeds for Facebook at that price would be $5.6 billion, excluding fees and commission, as well money from the 157 million shares sold by holders of the previously issued stock, based on a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Trading was expected to be launched May 18, according to news reports.
On the private-company exchange SharesPost, Facebook shares had been estimated at more than $44, news reports said.
Although the proposed pricing would put Facebook's value below some estimates, it still would make the social network the most valuable US Web company at the time of an IPO, topping Google's $23-billion valuation in 2004.
It would also put Facebook just behind the market capitalization of Amazon.com and ahead of Hewlett-Packard Co.
The pricing still could change ahead of the offering, based on demand seen from investment bankers.
Lou Kerner, an independent analyst specializing in social media firms, said he expects the share value will rise to $38 to $40 per share as the IPO generates momentum.
"They may put out something lower than that for the initial range, so that they can move it up and create the heat," he told AFP.
Under the dual-class stack structure, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will retain 57.3 percent of the voting power of the shares. The Wall Street Journal said his stake would be worth as much as $18.7-billion.
Zuckerberg, who according to the filing gets a base salary of $500 000 annually, will see that reduced to $1 in 2013, the filing said. The 27-year-old who created Facebook at Harvard is to sell a portion of his shares, mainly to pay taxes. That would net him $951-million at the midpoint price.
Facebook offered no specific use for the massive cash injection.
"The principal purposes of our initial public offering are to create a public market for our Class A common stock and thereby enable future access to the public equity markets by us and our employees, obtain additional capital, and facilitate an orderly distribution of shares for the selling stockholders," it said.
"We intend to use the net proceeds to us from our initial public offering for working capital and other general corporate purposes; however, we do not currently have any specific uses of the net proceeds planned."
The timing of Facebook's much-anticipated IPO was put in doubt after the company spent a billion dollars on hot photo-sharing smartphone application Instagram and another $550-million to buy patents from Microsoft.
Those kinds of major purchases by a company typically require updated IPO paperwork.
Facebook will trade under the symbol "FB" on the technology-heavy Nasdaq.
The number of people using Facebook had risen to 901 million by the end of the quarter, Facebook said.
Facebook is the leading social network in all but six countries, notably China and Russia.
Depending on the final value, the IPO would be one of the largest of a US firm on Wall Street, behind the 2008 offering of Visa ($17.8-billion) and General Motors in 2010 ($15.7-billion), according to Renaissance Capital. At the midpoint it would be the same amount of the third largest, AT&T, which raised $10.6-billion in 2000.