Social networking company Facebook could be considering an initial public offering (IPO) for the second quarter of 2012, according to rumours swirling on the web.

People familiar with the matter reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook hopes to raise $10 billion in an IPO that could value the company at more than $100 billion. The newspaper reports that a Facebook offering of $10 billion would be the largest ever IPO by any technology or Internet company.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg claims the company may file for the IPO before the end of the year, citing its own anonymous source. However, this has been rubbished by industry commentators, and the source in question admitted that an exact timing for the filing had not been determined.

Facebook is the largest social network in the world, with more than 800 million users. The company is not obliged to go public, but will be required by US regulators to disclose financial results by April 2012, if it doesn’t go public by then.

An IPO is widely expected, and board members and top executives have privately acknowledged that it the move would make sense. A $10 billion offering would vastly overshadow other recent social media IPOs from the likes of LinkedIn, Groupon and Pandora.

Groupon, the largest provider of online coupons, went public on 4 November, with shares soaring more than 30 percent in the company’s market debut. However, stock has plummeted 42 percent over the last few trading days.

Meanwhile, business social network LinkedIn, whose stock more than doubled from its IPO price on its first day of trading on 19 May, has since fallen 36 percent, but remains 33% above its IPO.

In an interview on US television earlier this month, Facebook's chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook would go public “when it makes sense,” adding that “it's honestly not something I spend time thinking about on a day-to-day basis”.