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Facebook raises $1.5 billion

By Laurie Segall, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Confirming reports that have swirled for weeks, Facebook said Friday that it has raised $1.5 billion from Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies. The investment gives the company a valuation of approximately $50 billion.

The company also confirmed that it plans to begin filing public financial reports by April 2012 -- a move likely to coincide with an IPO.

Regulatory rules are forcing Facebook's hand. When companies have more than 499 shareholders, they're required to publicly disclose their financial results and file quarterly reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Facebook said it expects to pass the 500 shareholder mark sometime this year.

The Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) deal has two parts. The first is a $500 million investment from Goldman Sachs directly, several of the funds it manages, and Digital Sky Technologies, a Russian investment group that already owned a chunk of Facebook.

The second is a $1 billion investment from Goldman Sachs' wealthy individual clients.

On Monday, Goldman Sachs moved to limit that opportunity to only its non-U.S. clients, a decision it attributed to the "intense media attention" the deal has attracted since it came to light earlier this month. Keeping American investors out of the pool limits the scrutiny U.S. regulators can apply to the deal.

Facebook took pains to make clear that it was approached about the investment deal -- not the other way around.

"DST and Goldman Sachs approached Facebook to express their interest in making an investment, and Facebook decided it was an attractive opportunity to bolster its cash reserves and increase its financial flexibility with limited dilution to existing shareholder," the company said in a press release.

It also didn't take as much cash as it could have.

"Facebook had the option to accept between $375 million and $1.5 billion from the Goldman Sachs overseas offering," the company said. "While the offering was oversubscribed, Facebook made a business decision to limit the offering to $1 billion."

Facebook now has over 500 million users, and according to a recent Hitwise study, surpassed Google as the most visited site in 2010.

A $50 billion valuation is a big step up for Facebook, which had a $15 billion valuation three years ago, when Microsoft paid $240 million for a 1.6% ownership stake.

But it could prove tricky to sustain once the company goes public and has its shares traded more broadly. At $50 billion, Facebook would be worth more than media and e-commerce companies like News Corp., CBS, Yahoo and eBay. To top of page

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