INTERNET COMPANY Interview complicates Google's stock sales

Federal regulations strictly limit what executives can say before a stock sale.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Legal questions about an interview Google Inc.'s founders gave to a magazine are the latest in a string of developments that have clouded the online search engine's highly anticipated initial stock offering.
In a seven-page article of Playboy delivered to some subscribers Thursday, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin discuss the company's rapid growth and even brag about how Google's search engine has helped save people's lives.
The snag is that the interview threatens to delay Google's initial public offering because securities regulations restrict what executives can say while preparing to sell stock for the first time.
Accepting bids
Nevertheless, the Mountain View-based company announced Thursday that the 28 brokerages handling its unorthodox initial public offering were to begin accepting bids this morning as part of the company's plan to raise $3 billion.
Google needs the Securities and Exchange Commission to approve its IPO registration statement before it can complete the stock sale -- a process the interview complicates, predicted Michael Zuppone, a former SEC attorney.
"I don't want to rain on their parade, but I think this interview is going to cause regulatory concern. There could be consequences," said Zuppone, now with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & amp; Walker in New York.
Securities attorney David Walek of Ropes & amp; Gray agreed that the interview would be a serious problem for almost any company preparing an IPO. But he said Google may be an exception because of the widespread publicity swamping the company since its IPO filing in late April.
"There already has been so much written about this company that the SEC may conclude that this doesn't really change the mix that much," Walek said.
SEC spokesman John Nester and Google spokeswoman Cindy McCaffrey declined to comment Thursday.
Price hoped for
Google and its insiders hope to sell stock at a price ranging from $108 to $135 per share. But the auction could change that price, particularly if most of the bids fall below the minimum $108 target.
The auction is expected to be wrapped up sometime next week, the company said.
The SEC sometimes imposes a "cooling off" period when a company involved in an IPO releases any information that deviates from its IPO registration statement.

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