Snapchat sets IPO valuation of up to $22 billion

An afternoon with Snap Spectacles
An afternoon with Snap Spectacles

Snap Inc., the company that brought you disappearing messages and puking rainbow filters, may soon be worth more than $20 billion.

Snapchat's parent company is looking to price its upcoming initial public offering at between $14 and $16 a share, according to a company filing on Thursday.

At the high end of that range, Snap would have a market value of more than $22 billion.

Snap would also be the biggest U.S. tech IPO since Facebook (FB), which went public in 2012 with a $104 billion valuation. In fact, Snap would be nearly double the value of Twitter (TWTR), which currently has a market cap of about $12 billion.

The pricing is not final, but it's the clearest indication yet that Snap is seeking a lofty valuation despite investor concerns.

Related: Snapchat's IPO has a Twitter problem

The young company saw user growth slow to a halt in the final months of last year, according to its original IPO filing earlier this month. The slowdown coincided with Facebook's Instagram launching a Snapchat copycat feature.

Snap's sales are growing at a fast pace, rising to more than $400 million in 2016 from just $58.7 million in 2015. Most analysts expect Snap to report around $1 billion in sales this year. That would mean Snap hopes to be valued at more than 20 times its sales.

Snap also continues to struggle to make money -- and it signaled a profit may not be coming soon. The company suffered losses of $515 million in 2016, up from a loss of $373 million the year before.

The company could end up raising nearly $3.7 billion from the public offering if it prices at $16 per share. Those funds would give Snap greater ability to compete for talent and acquisitions against larger Internet companies like Facebook.

"We may also use a portion of the net proceeds to acquire complementary businesses, products, services, or technologies," Snap said in its filing. "However, we are not contemplating any material acquisitions at this time."

Related: Inside the quirky world of Snapchat

The Snapchat app launched in 2011 and set itself apart from other messaging services with a focus on disappearing messages. It initially developed a reputation as a service for sending salacious pictures, but has since moved far beyond that.

Today, Snap defines itself as a "camera company." It sells Spectacles for recording videos and has built up its flagship app with augmented reality lenses that make sharing posts with friends more playful and engaging.

Snapchat's success has forced larger tech services like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to clone its features, with mixed success. Facebook famously tried to acquire the company for $3 billion in 2013.

The sum sounded outlandish at the time -- now, not so much.

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