SAN FRANCISCO— Google Inc.s highly anticipated IPO took a major step toward reaching the stock market late Friday when the online search engine leader opened the Web site where prospective investors must register to bid for the companys shares.
The site, www.ipo.google.com, is meant to be the first stop for anyone interested in getting a piece of an initial public offering expected to rank among the largest in the stock markets history.
Earlier this week, Google estimated its stock would sell for between $108 and $135 per share— a price that would value the 6-year company at $29 billion to $36 billion.
But Googles target price isnt set in stone. The Mountain View-based wants to determine the final IPO price through an auction open to everyone who takes the necessary steps to participate.
The egalitarian nature of Googles IPO is extremely unusual— a factor that might heighten the already high interest for the 24.6 million shares that are being auctioned. Most IPOs are exclusive events aimed at elite investors and the friends and family of the insiders at the company selling the stock.
After Googles auction is completed, the shares will begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker symbol "GOOG."
Googles Web site didnt disclose a timetable for completing the auction. Investment bankers have indicated they expect the auction to be wrapped up within two weeks.
The intense interest in Googles IPO reflects the vast popularity of the companys search engine, as well as the meteoric success of the business. Through the first half of 2004, Google earned $143 million on revenue of $1.35 billion, more than doubling its earnings and sales of a year ago.
Before doing anything else, prospective investors must register at the Web site that opened Friday.
After a prospective investor clicks through a series of consent forms, the site gathers a name, address, phone number, an e-mail address and a Social Security Number. Once the information is submitted, the site promised to send e-mail a link to a site that provide the ID number. The e-mailed link must be clicked upon within 24 hours for the ID number to be valid.
The ID number is required to place a bid for Googles IPO shares through one of the 28 investment banks participating in the deal. A list of the participating banks is available at the site, along with all of Googles IPO documents. If they dont already have one, bidders must open an account at one of the participating banks.
Google IPO site also features a video presentation by the companys top executives, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, along with CEO Eric Schmidt. The IPO is expected to make all three men billionaires.