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Facebook Scores $200 Million Investment, $10 Billion Valuation

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CNBC.com

Today, Facebook secured a $200 million investment from Russian Digital Sky Technologies for a 1.96 percent stake in the company's preferred stock, giving the social network a $10 billion valuation. The company is also offering to buy at least $100 million in Facebook common stock, allowing some employees to liquidate their stake in the company.

Never heard of Digital Sky Technologies? It's invested in a number of Eastern-European Internet properties, which account for over 70 percent of Russian-language page views. It's invested in Mail.ru, Russia's largest web site and its social networks (including Polish site Naszaklasa.pl) are the market leaders in 13 countries.

This investment should help Facebook as it grows revenue, becomes profitable and gets on the road to an IPO. CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have both said that the company does not *need* money. In a conference call after the announcement today Zuckerberg said the money "gives us a cash cushion" and provides "flexibility."

With a new CFO and the key role Google veteran Sandberg is playing, it seems clear the company's on track to go public, perhaps by the end of next year.

Zuckerberg says this year revenue growth should be more than 70 percent and that the company's on track to be cash flow positive some time next year. The CEO of DST, Yuri Milner, spoke to how Facebook will monetize its international audience, and he mentioned both advertising and users' micropayments. Zuckerberg, though, deflected speculation that it'll charge customers, saying it continues to focus on its ad model.

Bottom line, Zuckerberg wants to retain control of Facebook's board seats. Facebook does not have to give Digital Sky Technologies a board seat in exchange for the cash. Zuckerberg confirmed on today's conference call that the company has turned down a number of investments, saying the company wanted "to find someone we wanted to work with on our terms."

Within the past month Facebook rejected a $200 million round of investment that valued the company at $8 billion and demanded two board seats.

This investment from DST is the first significant round of funding Facebook has raised since October 2007, when Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook. But that was in much headier times, and also was part of an advertising deal: that investment gave the site a $15 billion valuation.

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