Facebook’s first day

I’m writing this at about 3pm, so the trading day isn’t over.  Several aspects to the FB IPO are already notable, though.

The stock opened at $43 and quickly reached a high of $45.  It then dropped to the IPO price of $38, where it met stiff resistance.  It now seems to be settling in at around $40 (note: I have a limit order in for today a tiny amount at $38.25).

1.  The day before yesterday the underwriters announced that the FB offering would be increased by 25% from an already hefty size.  This virtually always has the effect of tempering any first-day appreciation of the stock.

We should assume this was the main purpose of the move.

It isn’t clear if in this case the number two reason was:

–to accommodate holders chomping at the bit to sell or

–to ensure that the stock wouldn’t reach a crazy-high price in the first few days of trading and then collapse.

2.  The extra stock comes predominantly from selling shareholders, not from new shares issued by FB.  Normally that’s a bad thing, because the market argues (reasonably) that employees and venture capital investors know a lot more about the true worth of their firm than the rest of us do.

But the dynamics of this case aren’t so crystal clear.  The more new stock that’s issued by FB itself, the more Mark Zuckerberg’s margin of voting control over the company shrinks–and the less able he is to sell shares in the future and still maintain his voting majority.  This is not a worry for today or tomorrow, but Zuckerberg may have been quite happy to encourage employees or early investors to sell more.

3.  It’s not well-known, but underwriters have a short period of time in which they’re legally permitted to “stabilize” the price of a new issue (read:  step into the market and prop the stock up so it won’t fall below the IPO price).  That appears to have occurred with FB shortly before noon.

…not a great sign.  It raises the question of what will happen to FB next week, when the stabilization period expires and underwriters can’t stabilize anymore.

4.  The stock didn’t open until around 11am.  “So what,” you say.  That’s normal for a “hot” IPO.  Historically, that’s true.  But the brokerage industry trade association, FINRA, changed the IPO rules late last year so buyers can only place limit orders (that is, ones that specify a maximum price) before the first trade.  This eliminates market orders (ones where the buy price is open-ended) and should make the process of finding an initial market-clearing price much simpler. So a ninety-minute delay before opening is a lot.

5.  There are continuing reports of problems with trading in FB.  No one seems to know why.

One response

  1. Simple, buy and hold for 20 years, just like Google and Coca Cola. When people say “facebook me”, you know you have a brand.

    Just like when people called having a cola a “coke” and searching on the internet “Googling”.

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