Kirstein Business Library & Innovation Center

Lower Level, Johnson Building, Central Library, 617 536-5400,

What’s an IPO?

by Melissa Andrews

Facebook is in the news this morning for filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an Initial Public Offering, or IPO.  An IPO is a corporation’s first offering of stock or shares for sale for the public.  It is an oppportunity for an investor to buy shares in a growing company. What’s newsworthy about Facebooks’ IPO is the size of the offering, and the new information about Facebook’s business released to potential investors through their S-1 filing. Facebook is estimated to raise a record 5 billion dollars for the company, in what could be the biggest Internet IPO of all time.

 The S-1 registration form contains the basic business and financial information for the company, such as a company outlook and business plan, financial data and revenue, description of the initial stock offering, and potential investment risks investing with the company.  Facebooks’ filing includes their mission statement, as well as statistics about their world wide reach and growth, and  such as number of users,  frequency of users visitig the site, and user habits. View the Facebook filing here.  

The SEC has a search engine, Edgar, to search for filings. Go to and select Search for Company Filings.  For companies that are already being traded you could search by a ticker symbol or CUSIP number, which are unique to that company. In the case of Facebook, which is not yet being traded you can search by company name – Facebook- to see a list of recent Facebook filings with the SEC.  The S-1 form is at the top of the results list.

If you are interested in seeing other companies S-1 filings to see how they compare, our database Mergent Online has a Government Filings search feature where you can search for all S-1 filings posted in the last 30 days, 90 days or 12 months. Mergent Online is available to use from home with your library card.

Interested in learning more about  IPOs?

See a list of books in the Kirstein collection  to help you understand more about the IPO process and how to make the most of it if you are an investor.  

Or see a Bibliography covering books, websites and periodicals to help you learn more about initial public offerings.


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