Google Hints at IPO

Tina Reilly
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- To Google or not to Google, that is the question. The popular search giant announced this week that it might consider an Initial Public Offering (IPO) sometime next year.

Although nothing has yet been confirmed, Google's IPO date could be as early as March 2004, the company said. According to financial analysts, Google's IPO will be valued at around $15 billion.

However, Google doesn't plan on going public the way most companies have in the past. After all, this is cyber age.

The Google team is said to be in talks with several investment bankers, including San Francisco-based W.R. Hambrecht & Co., regarding an electronic bidding auction that would make Google shares available to a wider cross-section of buyers and not just traditional investment houses.

W.R. Hambrecht has brought companies like and RedEnvelope public through its OpenIPO electronic offering service.

According to analysts, an electronic offering could make Google immune to the same investment banking scandals that have rocked the financial world in recent years. An electronic auction system would also cut underwriting costs significantly.

Google has experienced rapid success over the past three years. Its search engine has become a household name and a world-wide leader among other search engines.

Google's newly-launched Adwords paid search-advertising system, which uses algorithms to target search keywords, also ranks high among many likeminded pay-search services provided by Overture and others, and has provided the search engine with an enormous revenue stream.

In a similar sign of prosperity for the search engine, Primedia Inc. announced plans to sell its online advertising unit Sprinks to Google, making Google's position as one of the leaders in paid search results even stronger.

Additionally, under the terms of a four-year, revenue-sharing deal, Google will also supply ads for Primedia's websites, including its sites.

Google was founded in 1998 by two graduate students. The name Google is taken from the word 'Googol,' which is a number that is followed by one hundred zeros.