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(MCT)—Dressed in his trademark hoodie and jeans, Facebook Inc. co-founder Mark Zuckerberg kicked off a cross-country road show to pitch his company’s initial public stock offering.

Hundreds of institutional investors stood in long lines Monday to pile into a ballroom at New York’s Sheraton Hotel to hear the billion-dollar pitch from the 27-year-old chief executive before his company’s hotly anticipated IPO. The meeting was closed to the media.

Facebook is trying to build excitement for the IPO that in a few weeks could value the company at more than $96 billion. That would make it the largest offering to come out of Silicon Valley. The Menlo Park, Calif., company said last week that it would offer 337.4 million shares at $28 to $35 each.

Investors expect that price range to jump as the road show makes its way across the nation, including stops in Boston and Chicago. Facebook plans to raise as much as $11.8 billion in its IPO. It’s expected to price the offering May 17 and begin trading the next day. The shares will be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol FB.

The presentation was more than an hour late in starting and began with a slickly produced video, which frustrated some would-be investors, who say they only got the opportunity to ask eight questions.

Zuckerberg was accompanied by Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, in suit and tie, and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, in business attire. They fielded questions about Facebook’s slowing revenue growth and its $1 billion purchase of photo-sharing firm Instagram.

The executives said they were confident that Facebook’s growth would continue. Zuckerberg called Instagram a “good deal” and said he would buy Instagram again.

“All in all, it wasn’t extremely penetrating,” said one investor, who added that he had never seen anything like the heightened security at the Facebook event.

Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Herman Leung expects Facebook’s revenue to grow 40 percent this year and 33 percent in 2013, he said in a note to investors Monday. He said the $28 to $35 range was a “compelling entry point” for investors.

“It’s generally agreed upon amongst investors that the Facebook IPO will be very successful and Facebook as a company will be very successful,” said Anthony Valencia, a media analyst at TCW Group who attended the event. “What is not agreed upon is how much upside there will be for new investors.”

©2012 the Los Angeles Times
Distributed by MCT Information Services