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Google's Got Its IPO Banks

Google has signed with investment banks Goldman Sachs Group and Morgan Stanley to handle its initial public offering, according to a Bloomberg News report filed Monday.

According to Bloomberg, the all-star cast of bankers handling the juicy IPO includes Citigroup , Credit Suisse First Boston, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. , Thomas Weisel Partners LLC and WR Hambrecht & Co., plus other unnamed banks. San Francisco-based Weisel was lead financial advisor to JDS Uniphase in its $15 billion acquisition of E-Tek Dynamics. Hambrecht, also based in San Francisco, created OpenIPO, an auction process wherein all successful bidders pay the same price per share, a strategy the company says is more equitable.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, founded in 1998, was profitable by Q4 2001 with only one initial round of funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sequoia Capital, and Sequoia partners John Doerr and Michael Moritz. Google makes money by licensing its enterprise search appliance and technology for corporate Web sites and through selling paid placements in its search results and contextual ads on other Web sites. In 2000, it introduced self-service advertising paid for with credit card, started revolution in affiliate marketing. In February 2002, it introduced the pay-per-click model for contextual ads, a model that became white-hot in 2003.

Neither the investment banks named by Bloomberg nor Google executives returned repeated calls, but the company reportedly expects to raise about $12 billion. The offering could put as much as one-third of Google's business in investors hands.

Many observers believe a Google IPO, which has been the subject of rampant speculation in recent months, would be the most valuable public offering since the heady days of the dot-com era.

One report said the company was considering an open online auction to "acknowledge the millions of users who have turned the closely held concern into a cultural icon." However, final decisions on a number of matters have not yet been made.