It was revealed this week that Facebook is valued by its private shareholders at over $33 billion, more than Ebay, Yahoo and Dell. For a private company with little more than a year of revenue this is extraordinary.
When the company goes public it will have a hard job living up to this valuation without a significant increase in revenue streams.
One option may be for it to do a transformational transaction prior to its listing. In this way it could incorporate a pumped up revenue stream into its high IPO valuation. One such deal could be for it to buy ING Direct US, the largest online bank in the country.
Under the terms of the Dutch government bail out, ING has to sell ING Direct in the US and Canada by 2012. They will have no shortage of bidders from the financial world, but could it make sense for a non-bank to actually buy the company? And if so, what about Facebook?
Half a billion people now live their online lives through Facebook. It has huge brand value and customer loyalty. For it to generate revenue streams it needs to do more than just offer up ads and sell games.
To get from being a social network site to a commercial network site it needs to drive business, and one of the biggest impediments to online retail business is payments. By owning a bank-and thus a payment platform–Facebook could make it very easy to transact online.
Clearly there would be lots of legal hurdles for such a deal to happen, not least because regulators do not like non-banks owning banks. More specifically, Facebook has had difficulties in the past respecting people’s privacy.
But by allying the huge number of people on the site with an easy to use payments and banking business, Facebook could revolutionize its business and the way that 500 million conduct personal commercial activities on the web.
It could also learn from the clever people at ING Direct about how to protect customer data. It may be a long shot, but the two companies could complement each other very well.