By Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Lauren Hirsch
(Reuters) - U.S. photo-sharing app Snapchat has chosen Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc as lead underwriters for an initial public offering that could come as early as March, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
The banks were notified earlier this week that they had been awarded one of most coveted and potentially lucrative IPO mandates in recent years, as the Venice, California-based company vies for a $25 billion valuation in the stock market.
JPMorgan Chase & Co , Deutsche Bank AG , Allen & Co, Barclays Plc and Credit Suisse Group AG will be joint book runners, the source said, asking not to be named because the information was not yet public.
Snapchat, whose parent is Snap Inc, and the banks were not immediately available to comment on the news first reported by Bloomberg News.
Snapchat started in 2012 as a free mobile app that allows users to send photos that vanish within seconds. It has more than 100 million active users, about 60 percent of whom are aged 13 to 24, making it an attractive way for advertisers to reach millennials.
Awash in venture funding, the company raised $1.81 billion in May, which valued it at about $20 billion, media reports said at the time.
But investors worry that Snapchat's advertising sales, which began last October, is the company's only significant revenue source.
Snap in September starting describing itself as a camera company. Its first physical product will be glasses with an embedded video camera. Users will be able to record video from their perspective in 10-second increments, which can be synched with their smartphones.
The company's last round of funding included General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, T. Rowe Price and Lone Pine. Previous rounds included Fidelity Investment, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Yahoo! Inc .
The U.S. IPO market has been unfriendly to technology companies for most of 2016. Year to date, technology IPOs have raised roughly $2.3 billion, compared to $5.2 billion over the same period in 2015. But a recent string of such IPOs has instilled more confidence among investors.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Lauren Hirsch in New York; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Richard Chang)