Facebook's (other) major milestone

February 2, 2012: 10:37 AM ET

The social network's IPO will be a milestone -- and it could join the Fortune 500 list in record time.

By Sierra Jiminez, contributor

FORTUNE -- Facebook's blockbuster IPO isn't the only milestone the company is passing by going public. If all goes well in 2012, the company is expected to join the Fortune 500 in record time.

According to digital marketing firm eMarketer, Facebook's advertising revenues alone are projected at $5.78 billion for 2012 -- a 56% gain from the company's total reported revenues in 2011. While that number could drop slightly, given the company's 2011 earnings reported in its S-1, the tech giant is still expected to land safely in the 400 to 415 range ranking among Fortune 500 companies. If that happens, Facebook will be the first new company to join the Fortune 500 less than a year after going public. The Fortune 500 is Fortune magazine's annual list of the top 500 U.S. companies ranked by revenue; the list has been published annually since 1955. (Meet the man behind the IPO.)

The company's leap into the Fortune 500 beats out Google's (GOOG) previous record by half the time. The Internet search provider broke Dell's (DELL) record of just over 3 years in 2005 -- joining the list just 16 short months after going public. Google, which was incorporated as a private company in 1998, was pushed to file its IPO in August 2004 because of an SEC rule requiring companies with at least $10 million in assets and more than 500 shareholders disclose financial details. At the time, the company was on the verge of its sixth birthday, two years younger than Facebook. Although both companies took a total of eight years to reach Fortune 500 status, those extra two years as a private company allowed Facebook to "mature" and quickly jump on the Fortune 500 list, says eMarketer analyst Debra Williamson.

In a few short years, Facebook has emerged as a behemoth in technology and popular culture, garnering 845 million total users, 483 million of which use the product daily. Last year, the company's revenues were $3.71 billion and $1 billion in net income. Some of its peers are LinkedIn (LNKD), Zynga (ZNGA), and Groupon (GRPN), all of which went public last year. Facebook did not specify a valuation in its filing, but previous reports have estimated the company between $75 billion and $100 billion. The $5 billion IPO is half of what was speculated in the weeks prior to yesterday's filing. But while Facebook's asking price is much lower than initially anticipated, it's not guaranteed to get even close to that amount. Google only managed to raise $1.9 billion in 2004. And last year, social gaming company Zynga valued itself between $15 billion and $20 billion, but ended up raising only $1 billion -- valuing the company at nearly half of what was expected.

The social network has selected Morgan Stanley (MS) to lead its IPO team. The company also took the lead on the initial public offerings of Groupon and Zynga last year. And while the final pricing will not be settled for several months, the monster tech IPO is surely expected to make a splash in Silicon Valley.

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