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10
of the Biggest IPOs in History

A reporter waits for trading to begin on Facebook stock, minutes before its initial public offering on May 18, 2012.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Friday, May 18, 2012, was a big day for American tech giant Facebook. The social media behemoth made its initial public offering (IPO) -- its debut as a publicly traded company -- on the New York Stock Exchange that day. In just one day of trading, Facebook sold 421.2 million shares of itself to investors for $38 apiece, amassing a cool $16 billion in new capital just about instantly [source: Bel Bruno]. Facebook's IPO became the largest tech offering – and third largest overall -- in U.S. history.

In the parlance of global IPO history, however, this is peanuts.

Initial public offerings are as high as high finance gets. When a well-known, formerly private company goes public, investors clamor for shares. They already know the company's management, they know its earning history, its forecasts. In many cases, the only thing left to chance is how much higher the share price will go once trading begins.

They're also the result of months or years of work. Companies turn to investment banks to underwrite the offerings, vet buyers, scintillate the media and value the stock. When it goes right, an IPO can mean a sudden infusion of cash in the tens of billions in just a matter of hours for some companies.

What follows are 10 of the most successful IPOs (by one-day proceeds) in the history of the world.

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