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Facebook shares ready for stock market debut

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rings the Nasdaq opening bell from his corporations headquarters in Menlo Park, California (May 18)

NEW YORK -- Facebook Inc. is just hours away from transforming itself into one of America’s largest public companies in a splashy stock market debut that has been the talk of Wall Street.

The social network is set to begin trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market at 8 a.m. Pacific time under the ticker symbol FB. It is set to become the second-largest initial public offering in history.

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The IPO will value Facebook at more than $104 billion, making it bigger than companies such as McDonald's and Amazon.com.

The stock debut will make Mark Zuckerberg and at least half a dozen other Facebook stakeholders into billionaires.

Zuckerberg, who founded the social network from his Harvard dorm room, has become the 29th-richest man in the world in the process.

The IPO is expected to create enormous wealth in Silicon Valley and more than 1,000 new millionaires among the company's 3,000 employees. Many hope this will give a boost to the local economy, including the housing market and car sales.

California lawmakers are drooling over the prospect of the blockbuster stock offering, saying it will give a much-needed boost to the cash-strapped state.

A computer geek with a rebellious streak who turned down big bucks and jobs at AOL and Microsoft to go to Harvard, Zuckerberg hacked into university computers as a sophomore in late 2003 to access students' ID photos, which he used to create a short-lived website called Facemash.

Zuckerberg started Facebook a few months later, and it was a quick success. He and his cohorts moved to Silicon Valley, where they tapped into venture capital and opened Facebook to additional college students, high school students, corporate networks and then everyone. Facebook is now the dominant social networking site for most of the globe, with nearly 1 billion users.

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