In today’s FT, John Gapper reads the Facebook prospectus.  And he doesn’t like what he sees:
There is still time to cancel its IPO and the filing provides plenty of reasons why it ought to… It begs a question if a company trying to raise capital from investors cannot think of anything to do with the money. Yet this is Facebook’s predicament – as it admitted in its filing on Wednesday, its cash flow and credit “will be sufficient to meet our operational needs for the foreseeable future”. … So what are its plans for the additional $5bn it may raise from an IPO? It intends to put the cash into US government bonds and savings accounts…
Gapper, looking at the IPO from the perspective of what it does for Facebook the enterprise, understandably thinks this is nuts. Why incur the costs of an IPO and the ongoing requirements of a public listing, if you have so little need for the cash that you are literally just planning to leave it in a savings account. But of course, the purpose of the IPO has nothing to do with Facebook the enterprise.
Given that it doesn’t need capital…, why the IPO? … Facebook’s motivation is clear: to gratify its venture capital investors and employees. This is not a cynical statement; it is a quote from Mr Zuckerberg’s letter to new shareholders. “We’re going public for our employees and our investors,” he writes. “We made a commitment to them when we gave them equity that we’d work hard to make it worth a lot and make it liquid, and this IPO is fulfilling our commitment.”
In terms of Silicon Valley’s logic, it makes sense… For the company itself, however, the logic is far less obvious. As a corporate entity, Facebook could clearly thrive without seeking new shareholders, whose main purpose is to allow the insiders to get rich and eventually exit.
As I’ve written before, the function of the stock market in modern capitalism is to get money out of corporations, not put money into them. The social problem they are solving is not society’s need to allocate scarce savings to the most promising investments, but wealth-owners desire to free their fortunes from particular firm or industry and keep them as claims on the social product as a whole.
 It’s been said before, but can I just point out how unbearably stupid is the FT’s policy of actively discouraging people from excerpting their articles?