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Facebook price tag drops (another) $3.5bn

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Facebook's Russian sugar daddy has offered to buy back employee shares for $14.77 a pop, which means the ostensible value of the social networking site has dropped another $3.5bn.

In late May, Digital Sky Technologies paid $200m for a 1.96 per cent share of the Palo Alto-based startup. That put the company's value at $10bn, down from the onanistic $15bn valuation Microsoft spewed onto Silicon Valley in the fall of 2007. As part of its deal, DST said it would also buy back stock from Marc Zuckerberg's minions, and as first reported by The New York Times, the Russian investment firm has now made this tender offer official.

DST will purchase up to $100m in common stock from Facebook employees at $14.77 a share. That puts the company's valuation at $6.5bn. But if you like, you can argue that the $3.5 value drop isn't actually a value drop. The DST and Microsoft deals were for preferred stock, not common.

Regardless, $6.5bn seems awfully high for an outfit that's still struggling to actually make some money. Yes, the site welcomes over 300 million visitors a month, but serving up all that digital solipsism costs some serious coin, and it's unclear how much the company is pulling in from ad revenues.

According to a recent analysis from Data Center Knowledge, Facebook is spending somewhere between $20m and $25m a year on data center space. And this past November, unnamed sources told TechCrunch that the company was spending "well over" a million a month on electricity and "likely" another $500,000 for bandwidth. That's what happens when self-obsessed Web 2.0 types start uploading an endless stream of photos.

Zuckerberg recently said the company's revenue is growing 70 per cent a year. But that could mean anything. And as its user base continue expand, it's costs are growing as well. Zuckerberg says the company will be "cash flow positive" next year. But that's pretty much what you'd expect him to say.

You also expect that DST will spend the entire $100m, which would give the Russian investment firm a 3.5 per cent stake in Zuckerberg's outfit. And this, Zuckerberg says, is prove that Facebook is changing the planet. "This is recognition of Facebook’s growth and progress towards making the world more open and connected," reads his canned statement. He also said that Facebook is not expected to go public anytime soon. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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