Facebook may give in to the inevitable and file for an IPO

Facebook is growing increasingly serious about planning its initial public offering, and an S-1 from the company could come as early as October of this year, CNBC reported Monday.

Facebook is said to be targeting the first quarter of 2012 as the ideal time for its IPO, which is on track to value the company at “north of a shocking $100 billion,” CNBC reporter Kate Kelly said in a breaking news segment aired on Monday. Kelly, who said she had just returned from “a few days in Silicon Valley,” attributed the information to anonymous Wall Street sources.

According to the report, the nine-month time frame is largely due to a regulatory detail. Facebook has said it expects to have more than 500 private shareholders by the end of the 2011 calendar year. Once a private company with more than $10 million in assets exceeds 500 investors, it is required to begin filing financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, much like public companies are required to do. Under this regulation, known as the 500 investor rule, Facebook will likely be forced to begin filing financial reports with the SEC by April 30, 2012. The thinking is that Facebook may “just want to get ahead of all that” by filing a formal IPO, according to the CNBC report.

When reached by GigaOM, a Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the IPO rumors.

On one hand, Facebook valuation and IPO rumors are nothing new. But on the other hand, Facebook has made no secret of its ambition to be a publicly traded company, particularly recently. Last month, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said an IPO was “inevitable” for the company. “No one is buying us, we’re going public,” Sandberg is quoted as saying at the Reuters Global Technology Summit on May 19. With the recent successes of other tech companies’ public market debuts, it would make sense for Facebook to get serious about its own IPO filing.