Facebook Inc. (FB:US) more than doubled its users in Japan over the past six months as more Japanese joined the world’s most popular online social network.
Total users in the country has surpassed 10 million, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said today in Tokyo, where he met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Facebook is useful during a disaster “allowing victims to share information,” Noda told Zuckerberg during the meeting at the prime minister’s residence today. The social network is “also useful for startups to raise capital,” Noda said.
Online networks’ popularity in Japan gained since the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, when parents and children used sites including Facebook to locate each other in the aftermath of the crisis. Japanese companies including Fast Retailing Co. (9983), owner of the Uniqlo brand, are also using the site to reach customers.
Facebook opened a Tokyo office in September 2010 and introduced Connection Search, an application that links job- seeking students. The network had 13.5 million unique users in Japan in February, up from 6 million a year earlier, according to data from Nielsen. That put the Menlo Park, California-based company ahead of social-networking rivals Twitter Inc. and Mixi Inc. (2121) in Japan for the first time.
The website had more than 845 million members worldwide last year. Europe is its largest market for advertising revenue outside the U.S. and Canada, according to the company’s regulatory filing. Fourth-quarter ad sales were $95 million in Asia, where it had 212 million users. The U.S. and Canada, with 179 million users, contributed $462 million.
Zuckerberg’s Tokyo visit comes as Apple Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited China, the iPhone maker’s biggest market outside the U.S., this week. Cook met Chinese officials including Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who may lead the nation’s government next year, and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong.
Facebook, which filed in February to raise $5 billion in the largest-ever Internet public-market debut, is trying to maintain growth. The company almost doubled revenue last year to $3.71 billion, it said in its filing.
The company is halting the trading of its shares on secondary markets by the beginning of April as it prepares for an initial public offering, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The company aims to hold its IPO in early May, one person said.
Facebook is actively traded on secondary markets including SharesPost Inc. and SecondMarket Inc. The halt gives the company time to account for its shareholding base and would end price fluctuations as Facebook confers with bankers and investors to determine its IPO valuation, according to Lise Buyer, principal at Class V Group.
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