Is LinkedIn Planning an IPO This Year?

LinkedIn, a social network service that connects business people to one another, doesn't have the brand name, dazzle, or appeal of Facebook or Groupon. But that may not stop it from an initial public offering this year.

Reuters, quoting unidentified sources, reports that LinkedIn has hired Morgan Stanley (MS), Bank of America (BAC), and JPMorgan (JPM) to handle the underwriting duties for an IPO. The news service also reports that shares of LinkedIn recently traded on private markets indicate a value of about $2.2 billion.

It's not clear why LinkedIn wants to raise money. One theory is that the sharp increase in the value of Facebook -- based on $500 million it has recently raised -- will lift all other social networks. The process valued Facebook at $50 billion. Money that Groupon is raising puts its value at over $6 billion. LinkedIn may hope to ride on the coattails of this momentum.

Both Facebook and Groupon, however, have indicated that they will likely remain private companies until at least 2012. This may be because they do not want public scrutiny of their financial statements and confidential business practices.

There is another more probable reason for LinkedIn to tap the public markets. The social network sector has become more competitive. Facebook has the ability to mirror some of LinkedIn's features. LinkedIn does not have a corner on the market of connected business associates with one another. It may simply want new capital to take the technical and marketing steps its needs to take to remain a leader in its business.

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