updated 8/17/2004 6:13:11 PM ET 2004-08-17T22:13:11

Google Inc.’s long-awaited initial stock sale, which appeared imminent Tuesday, has been delayed while the company awaits final approval of its paperwork by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Regulators will make no decision Tuesday as Google had requested, said John Heine, an SEC spokesman. The Internet search company had requested that its registration statement be made effective at 4 p.m. ET.

Heine declined to provide a reason for the delay, but he said no decision would be made after the SEC’s close of business, which is 5:30 p.m.

Google did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The company has updated its regulatory filings several times since first announcing its plans to go public in April. Typically, companies work closely with the SEC to ensure all paperwork is in order, making final approval a routine process.

Google had planned to close its share price-setting auction no earlier than an hour after receiving the SEC’s blessings. If that had happened, winning bidders could have been notified and shares could have been traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market as early as Wednesday.

Google anticipates its 25.7 million shares will be priced between $108 and $135 each in what could be a $3 billion initial public offering, which would be a record for an Internet company. If the stock trades at the midpoint of Google’s range, it would have a market capitalization of about $30 billion — lower than Yahoo Inc.’s but above General Motors Corp.

The deal would turn Google’s 30-something co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin into billionaires and create a windfall for the search company’s early investors and 2,292 employees who are expected to sell at market prices shares they bought for as little as 30 cents each.

Insiders flooding the market combined with strong demand from outside investors could lead to surprises when the stock finally debuts.

Then again, that’s nothing new for Google.

Since it was founded in 1998 by Stanford University students Page and Brin, it has always been something of an oddball. Its design eschewed flashy ads for a simple, quick-loading layout. Its search algorithm out-powered all rivals. Its name became synonymous with Internet search.

The Mountain View-based company, which makes money by selling unintrusive text advertising, managed to prosper as a private company even while other dot-coms were collapsing. Now, as the technology industry is just recovering, Google stands to prosper even more.

In the second quarter of this year, for instance, Google earned $79.1 million, or 30 cents per share, compared with $32.2 million, or 12 cents per share, in the same period last year. Sales more than doubled, to $700 million in the latest period from $311 million last year.

But its surprising success pales in comparison to the roller coaster ride that’s taken place since Google announced in April that it planned to make its stock available to the public.

The four-month saga that has included Google’s unusual IPO auction to set price based on demand, folksy letters embedded in filings, a Playboy magazine interview of its founders despite a quiet period and the discovery that the company neglected to millions of shares.

The auction was designed to democratize the IPO process, which is usually limited to investors connected to investment banks. Still, many analysts questioned whether Google’s projected price was affordable to average investors.

Google’s prospectus not only included the usual bureaucratic language and charts, but also a folksy letter from its founders. The document contained more than 20 pages of warnings, ranging from competition and potential technical problems to gaffes like the Page and Brin interview that appeared in Playboy magazine during the company’s so-called quiet period.

One of the more serious disclosures was the fact that Google neglected to register 23 million shares and 5.6 million options. They were issued from September 2001 through July 2004, primarily to employees and consultants.

To make amends, Google is offering to buy back the shares and options for $25.9 million, including interest payments. The offer will be sent to 1,406 people, who could reject the buyback and sue the company if they feel Google’s offer isn’t high enough.

The SEC also has launched an inquiry, which could lead to more penalties. Several state regulators also have asked for information on the bungled stock issues, Google said.

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