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Kleiner Perkins sFundLegendary venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers sat out most of the recent social networking craze, but it’s been catching up quickly over the past year. And the latest addition is Facebook, the social networking crown jewel.

Kleiner is buying as much as $38 million in Facebook stock from other shareholders (which usually means employees and early investors) at a $52 billion valuation, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal’s Venture Capital Dispatch. That’s slightly higher than the company’s $50 billion valuation when it raised $1.5 billion from Goldman Sachs, DST, and Goldman clients in January.

The firm appears to be taking a similar strategy to another big-name firm, Andreessen Horowitz — since they missed out on most of the social networking superstars early on, they’re willing to put a lot more money into them now, at tremendous valuations. And if they can’t invest directly, they’re willing to buy shares on the secondary markets. For example, last fall Kleiner led a $200 million round in Twitter that valued the company at $3.6 billion. Andreessen Horowitz didn’t participate in that round, but it recently purchased more than $80 million in Twitter stock from existing shareholders.

Kleiner was less active on the social Web (with the notable exception of an investment in social gaming giant Zynga) until last year, due to its funding of Friendster, which posed a conflict of interest with most attractive social plays, and a focus on cleantech investments. Now, however, in addition to these bigger deals the firm has been investing in what it hopes will be the next wave of social networking hits through its sFund, which Facebook has also invested in. (In the photo above, Kleiner partners John Doerr and Bing Gordon bookend a lineup of sFund participants including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.) In fact, Kleiner and Andreessen Horowitz are the two firms that have a stake in Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and Groupon.

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