China wants to buy a huge chunk of Facebook, a source at a fund that buys stock from former Facebook employees.
This source learned of China’s interest when it approached him to see if he could help put together a stake large enough “to matter.”
Separately, a second source tells us there is a rumor going around Facebook that Citibank is at this very moment trying to acquire as much as $1.2 billion worth of Facebook stock on behalf of two sovereign wealth funds – China’s and another from the Middle East. Another source from an investment bank that is very influential in Silicon Valley says he’s also heard a rumor about Citibank’s interest on behalf of China.
Representatives from Facebook and Citibank declined to comment on this story. We reached out to China’s investment group, but haven’t heard back.
Word that China, a state that actively combats privacy online, wants to buy a big stake in Facebook is bound to provoke some concern amongst the 700 million or so people who trust the site with their photos and online activity.
There’s little need for such concern. For one, even a billion dollar stake isn’t a very big stake in Facebook, these days. The company is expected to IPO at a $100 billion valuation. For another, China would be buying non-voting stock and would have no say in Facebok’s operations. And finally, it’s not like shareholders in Facebook have some special privilege that allows them to see what users are doing or saying.
Importantly, sovereign wealth funds are pretty distinct from their governments.
Because it’s a private company, Facebook will have to approve any sale of its stock to China. It’s been reported that Mark Zuckerberg would like Facebook to move into China. One big reason American firms stumble in China is that the government tends to favor locals when it comes to regulation. One way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to allow the governement to own a stake.