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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Q&A - How the Google float will work
Google must be hoping its flotation leaps into life

With Google's much anticipated initial public offering moving one stage further with the start of the shares auction, BBC News Online takes a look at what is likely to happen next.

What is the timetable towards flotation?

At this stage there is no specific timeframe other than the start of the auction on Friday, 13 August, at 9am EDT (1300 GMT).

Google underwriters have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to approve its flotation registration document for Tuesday 17 August at 4pm EDT (8pm GMT) which implies shares could be trading on the Nasdaq the following day.

The registration statement sets out the details of the share issue and prospects for the company.

Google has chosen to hold a Dutch auction to sell the 25.7 million shares it has up for grabs.

What exactly is a Dutch auction?

A Dutch auction is designed to give everyday investors a better chance of getting their hands on stock, in contrast to the standard practice which sees most of the shares going to big institutional investors such as pension funds.

It works by asking potential investors to specify both the price they are willing to pay and the number of shares they want.

The people managing the auction then start allocating shares, beginning with the highest-priced bids and working down the list.

The price offered by the last person to receive shares then becomes the price everyone will pay - the so-called "clearing price", which Google expects to be between $108 and $135, valuing the firm at more than $36bn (20bn).

How will the auction be handled?

Firstly, would-be investors must have a "bidder ID" obtained through registration to participate in the auction, and an account with one of the 28 securities firms underwriting the sale.

Google staff
Google staff have been given very generous stock options

The company has been distributing the identification numbers it opened a special website, www.ipo.google.com, on 30 July to do so.

However, critics have said the site has not attracted many visitors, with some suggesting that the auction process Google has chosen is too complicated.

What is the minimum number of shares people be able to bid for?

Google itself has set a minimum bid of at least five shares, yet investors using one of those securities firms taking part - HARRISdirect - will need to submit a bid for at least 100 shares.

And there is nothing to stop investors making multiple bids at different prices, to increase the odds of making it through the Dutch auction.

You could, for example, make your first bid for 100 shares at $108 each, with a second one for 50 shares at $115 each.

Google reminded investors not to overdo it.

"Do not submit bids that add up to more than the amount of money you want to invest in the IPO," Google has warned. "This is a very important point."

And if things weren't already complicated enough, Google says that if the auction lasts more than 15 days, participants will be asked to reconfirm their bids.

What if my bids are successful?

You will be notified by email within 24 hours of the US Securities and Exchanges Commission giving its final approval of the IPO prospectus.

Despite the complexities of the auction, most analysts expecting this to all be completed sometime next week. With the flotation following - some time - after that.

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