Following many other reports in recent weeks, CNBC reporter Kate Kelly says that FarmVille developer Zynga is planning to file a Form S-1 as early as tomorrow for between $1.5 and $2 billion with Morgan Stanley leading as the main underwriter of the IPO. Additional information from today’s CNBC broadcast of The Strategy Session puts Zynga’s valuation between $15 billion and $20 billion and pegs Goldman Sachs and Bank of America as additional underwriters.
Kelly: I’m hearing that Zynga is planning to file its IPO registration documents with the SEC as early as tomorrow. The game-maker, based in San Francisco, wants to raise between $1.5 billion and $2 billion dollars, I’m told, and has selected Morgan Stanley to lead its offering with Goldman Sachs in the secondary slot. [Bank of America], Barclays, and J.P. Morgan will also be involved from what I understand.
Kelly points out that the offering has several points of interest. First, the valuation — which she puts between $15 billion and $20 billion, if Zynga follows the low float model that LinkedIn recently used in its own IPO. Second, she says Zynga has held talks with banks about putting together a credit facitily “of at least $1 billion” or more as part of its IPO process. Third, she questions both why the underwriters want to raise both debt and equity capital right now and how big their checks had to be to participate. Lastly, and perhaps most interestingly, Kelly identifies a weakness that many have brought up over the years: how appealing would an IPO really be if Zynga comes off as dependent on Facebook for traffic and revenue. Now might be a great time for Zynga to unveil its off-platform games destination if ZLive is a done deal, and of course Zynga’s rapidly-growing mobile offerings may help establish its independence.
Another big question is how much Zynga will say it made in revenue for the past year, with some reports saying $400 million in profit on around $850 million in revenue and unnamed sources claiming “more robust” figures. An early May filing shows that Zynga appeared to be selling $490 million in Series C Preferred shares that had been slated to take place in early March, which seemed corroborate reports in mid-February that Zynga raised $500 million in funding with a $10 billion valuation.
Zynga recently released its newest social game, Empires & Allies, to Facebook. The strategy/city-builder hybrid is currently on a growth trend that’s already eclipsed FarmVille — but to unseat CityVille, it’ll have to double in size in the coming weeks. Zynga currently enjoys 271 million monthly active users and 53 million daily active users across all its games and apps on Facebook, as recorded by our traffic tracking service, AppData.