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Private companies typically prepare to go public in two ways:
- They taken on more investors and increase their capital reserves.
- They hire a professional chief financial officer.
We've seen both Twitter and Facebook hire CFOs. This week, social gaming specialist Zynga joined the club when it hired David Wehner to lead finance. Wehner joins the company from investment banking firm Allen & Co., where, according to his bio, he was a managing director responsible for "capital raises" and "M&A transactions."
Zynga accepted $150 million in fresh capital from Softbank in June, and has now collected $366 million in financing since its founding in 2007, TechCrunch reports. An IPO would be the next logical move.
Why farming is a better business than you think
Even if you don't know Zynga, you likely know its games. Farmville is among its most popular, with more than 80 million active users as of February. Put in context, that means at least one of out every seven of Facebook's 500 million active users plays Farmville. More than a few of them are in my circle of friends.
We don't have specific revenue numbers for Zynga, but a Reuters report from last December suggested the company takes in more than $300 million annually. No wonder private equity investors want a piece of the action.
Public equity investors might also like the shares. In May, Business Insider calculated Zynga's valuation at $4 billion. Dividing that by $300 million in annual revenue implies a price-to-sales ratio of 13.3, not uncommon for a high-growth stock.
Acme Packet (Nasdaq: APKT ) , Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) , and MercadoLibre (Nasdaq: MELI ) all trade for north of 10 times sales, but for good reason. Every one of them is on track to improve earnings by more than 25% a year through 2015. Premium growth commands a premium price. Why would Zynga, whose revenue apparently tripled during 2009, trade any differently?
Growth is why Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) is entering Zynga's market. The search king is acquiring social gaming start-up Slide for $182 million in what appears to be a concerted effort to make Facebook look irrelevant.
Zynga, which depends on Facebook, needs to go public before Google's attempt gets traction. A new CFO should help speed up the process.
But that's also just my take. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you like the prospects for a Zynga IPO? Would you short it? Let the debate begin in the comments box below.