Twitter Inc. was valued at about $9 billion after early employees sold $80 million in shares to a fund managed by BlackRock Inc. (BLK:US), three people with knowledge of the matter said.
The sales were overseen by Twitter Chief Operating Officer Ali Rowghani, said one of the people yesterday, who asked not to be identified because the transactions were private.
Twitter is helping early shareholders realize part of the value of their holdings while letting select investors obtain equity in the fast-growing Internet company before it holds an initial public offering. The deal with BlackRock, the largest money manager, marks an increase in the blog-site’s value since 2011, when an investment led by DST Global valued Twitter at $8 billion, people with knowledge of the plan said then.
Farrell Denby, a spokesman for New York-based BlackRock, declined to comment yesterday, as did Gabriel Stricker, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Twitter.
Rowghani, who was promoted from the role of finance chief last month, has taken an active role in lining up buyers for shares, according to the person with knowledge of the matter. In doing so, he may seek to limit pressure on Twitter’s valuation that could result from employees dumping a large amount of stock after post-IPO “lockups” on their shares are lifted. A tighter rein on who holds stock can also limit the amount of inside information circulated ahead of an IPO.
The close involvement of Twitter in private-share sales is a shift from the freewheeling marketplace for shares of Facebook Inc. that arose before the social network’s 2012 public offering.
On websites such as SecondMarket Inc. and SharesPost Inc., Facebook shares were traded freely among employees and investors with little intervention from the company -- often resulting in the exchange of confidential data about its financials and daily projections on its valuation that loomed over the IPO.
By contrast, Rowghani and his team have turned away many potential buyers and limited access to Twitter’s financials to a select few investors, a person said.
Twitter, founded in 2006, has sought to limit private-share sales in the past. In 2011, the company asked shareholders to refrain from selling on Web exchanges, two people said at the time.
The company allocated half of its $800 million investment from DST for buying shares back from employees and investors, people said at the time. Twitter hasn’t disclosed plans for a public-market debut, though Rowghani’s promotion was a possible precursor to an eventual IPO filing.
BlackRock’s purchase and Twitter’s valuation were previously reported by the Financial Times.
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