Posts tagged Facebook hit $38
Every time, Facebook looked like it would break below the $38 a share initial price, millions of bids showed up. Coincidence? Facebook’s IPO was a roaring success — for Facebook. Investors aren’t quite sure what to make of it after Facebook’s underwriters repeatedly stepped in to make sure shares didn’t fall below the $38 mark. The social networking giant priced its shares at $38 and raised about $16 billion in what was a perfect price. Facebook’s IPO was perfectly priced because the company raised everything it could and left no premium for investors. An IPO is mispriced if it rockets to the moon and the company could have raised more. Facebook’s IPO lacked fireworks, but raked in dough. Its shares finished the trading day at $38.27, up 0.71 percent. So in other words, Facebook’s IPO was a lot of hype for a gain of just a few pennies. But the far more interesting endpoint to Facebook’s IPO is that it needed help from its plunge protection team — 33 underwriters determined to make sure the offering didn’t break below the $38 price.
To understand how bankers supported the Facebook IPO, all you had to do is watch the Level II quotes — a stock system designed to show you underlying bid and ask prices — to see how millions of bids appeared every time Facebook hit $38. Coincidence? Not quite. There weren’t zillions of people waiting for Facebook shares at $38. But investment banks were unloading every bullet they had to keep FB at least treading water. The Wall Street Journal reported that underwriters stepped up to protect Facebook shares. After all, no investment bank worth anything wanted the biggest tech IPO ever to break. Now it’s unclear how long Facebook’s plunge protection team will be in place. Investment banks avoided an embarrassing first day break of Facebook shares, but Monday could be a different story. Here’s the day in Facebook shares.
However, investors are not buying Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) today because they believe it is fairly valued, so what is the point of the comparison? Bear with me for a moment. Let’s say Facebook investors want to receive 15 percent a year over the next five years. In that case, Facebook’s market capitalization has to double in five years, to $200 billion. Conveniently, $200 billion happens to be Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s valuation today. Since both companies are in the advertising business and have very similar cost structures, all Facebook has to do over the next five years is achieve Google’s current sales level, which is a meager $40 billion (for purposes of this discussion, we’ll ignore Google’s $40 billion pile of cash, or about $100 a share, compared with Facebook’s few billion, though that would only further make my point here). For an investor to double his or her money over the next five years, all Facebook has to do is increase its revenues tenfold.
That sounds doable at first glance. When your name defines what social networking means, and when you have 900 million users, nothing seems unconquerable. Still, increasing revenues tenfold may become a difficult undertaking for Facebook. First of all, there is a user fatigue. I find that as the novelty of Facebook wears off, I spend less and less time logged in to my page. (Interestingly, I find that I use Twitter more and more every day, because I strictly use it as part of my research process). One can argue that it may just be me, but a study undertaken by a web research company last fall shows that users are indeed getting Facebook fatigue. In addition, Facebook is a productivity drain, and employers will likely start blocking employee access to Facebook during businesses hours, which will further decrease the time spent on it.
In theory, Facebook is an advertiser’s dream. Since we openly share our age, sex, education, employment, travels, likes, etc., for the first time ever, a retailer can market to an incredibly specific demographic: a 38-year-old male, in Denver, married with children, with a graduate degree, who “likes” Ayn Rand. The precision of target marketing offered by Facebook is simply incredible. But while you can charge a lot more money for delivering a display ad with sniper-rifle precision, this money will be wasted if your precisely selected audience simply ignores your ads. It doesn’t matter whether you deliver ads with a sniper rifle or a 12-gauge shotgun, if users don’t notice them, precision carries little value. It seems our brains have gradually adapted to ignoring display ads — I personally cannot recall a single display ad from Facebook.
Finally, it is hard to maintain your competitive advantages when you don’t know who your competition is. Facebook competition is likely to be nonlinear (e.g., not Google+ or Myspace-like networks). Instead, it will probably be another activity that competes our time away from Facebook. I have no idea what it will be — maybe it’s not even born yet. Of course, in the short term, it doesn’t really matter what Facebook revenue or cash flows are. Investors are ignoring them. Facebook stock can probably double in the first five trading days, rather than five years. After the company goes public, its shares will trade for a while like a beachfront property that was frequented by Elvis, and little details like cash flow won’t matter. But the honeymoon will eventually end. It always does, and Facebook will then start trading like an unsexy apartment building — based on cash flows. That is when reality will set in and the stock will come down to earth, hard.