How Google has grown in the 15 years since its IPO
The Securities and Exchange Commission granted final approval Wednesday to the paperwork required for Google Inc.'s initial public offering, paving the way for the Internet search giant to set a price for its shares and begin selling them after several stumbles and a last-minute downward revision on the size of the offering.
Initial shares of Google Inc. were priced late Wednesday at $85 each — the low end of estimates that the company revised downward hours earlier.
Still, the much-ballyhooed offering remains one of the bigggest and highly anticipated for an Internet company, surpassing most of the hot issues of the dot-com boom.
One of the last unknowns in Google's four-month initial public offering saga, the final IPO price, established in an unusual auction involving would-be investors, sets the stage for public trading of the company's stock, under the ticker symbol "GOOG," for as early as Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Earlier Wednesday, it dramatically lowered its estimated per-share price range to between $85 and $95, down from the previous range of $108 to $135.
In a move that should buouy prices, it reduced the number of shares to be sold to 19.6 million from 25.7 million.
At the final price, the offering will raise $1.67 billion and give the world's most popular search engine a market capitalization of $23.1 billion. If the stock had debuted at the high end of the original estimate, it would have raised as much as $3.6 billion and given Google a market cap as high as $36 billion.
But the bumpy IPO process has created several clouds over the company that has been criticized for being too idealistic, arrogant and reckless since it began the IPO process four months ago.
Its prospectus indicates that Google still faces regulatory questions.
In one case, it said the SEC "has requested additional information concerning the publication" of an interview of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page that appeared in September's issue of Playboy magazine. That was a potential violation of the SEC's rules against talking publicly before an IPO about information that is not included in the prospectus.
Google also has admitted that the agency has launched an informal inquiry into its issuance of millions of pre-IPO shares and options without registering them.
The auction — another source of controversy — was supposed to democratize the IPO process, which is usually limited to investors connected to investment banks.
Still, many analysts questioned whether Google's projected price was affordable to average investors.