Where are Facebook's friends? Stock slide deepens

By Pallavi Gogoi

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 22 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this May 18, 2012 file photo provided by Facebook, Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, center, rings the Nasdaq opening bell from Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Robert Greifeld, second from right, CEO of the Nasdaq-OMX Stock Market, Inc., said Sunday, May 20, the stock exchange is "humbly embarrassed" by its bungling of Facebook's debut. Facebook's stock was expected to start trading at 11 a.m. Friday, but didn't open until 11:32 a.m., and some investors didn't learn for hours whether their orders went through.

Nasdaq via Facebook, Zef Nikolla, File, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Facebook's newly public stock is sliding further on its third trading day as investors reconsider how much the social network is worth.

The company's long-anticipated initial public offering of stock raised $16 billion, valuing the company at $104 billion — more than Amazon.com Inc., at $98 billion.

But Facebook's stock has plunged after the IPO. It fell $1.09, or 3.2 percent, to $32.94 in late morning trading Tuesday, after dropping as low as $30.98 earlier in the day. The latest price is 13 percent below the IPO price of $38 and values the company at about $91 billion.

Google Inc., meanwhile, is worth nearly $200 billion.

The downward spiral has left some people sitting on big losses and others scratching their heads. After all, nothing fundamental has changed at Facebook in the days since the much-hyped company came to Nasdaq Stock Market with a ticker symbol of "FB." Facebook still has more than 900 million users, its 28-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg controls the company, and it is still one of the few profitable Internet companies to go public.

Facebook's IPO — like Netscape's in 1995 and Google's in 2004 — was billed as a milestone moment. Netscape's offering ushered in the era of the Internet browser. The company's stock more than doubled in its first day of trading. Google's IPO heralded the age of search. It posted an 18 percent gain in its stock market debut. Facebook was supposed to offer proof that social media is a viable business and more than a passing fad.

But investors don't seem convinced. Facebook's stock closed Monday at $34.03, down 11 percent from Friday's closing price of $38.23. The investment banks that arranged Facebook's offering set a price of $38 on Thursday. Although many investors had hoped for a big first-day pop, Facebook's stock opened Friday at $42.05 and fluctuated between $45 and $38 throughout the day.

For a host reasons, Facebook's falling share price shouldn't have been a surprise.

— Its IPO occurred the same week that the markets posted their worse performance so far in 2012. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 4 percent.

— Meanwhile, Europe was trying to avert financial disaster.

— At the same time, the American public's love affair with the stock market continued to wane. People have yanked more than $400 billion from U.S. stock mutual funds since 2008.

— Banks are being cautious, too. All this is happening in the backdrop where banks are under pressure from regulators to become more conservative after the financial crisis. "Regulators want banks to take less risk," said Larry Tabb, founder and CEO of Tabb Group, a markets research firm. "To support a $100 billion offering can be challenging in this environment."

— Investors were also spooked by the trading glitches at the Nasdaq on Friday. Some people weren't sure if their trades had been executed. Trading of the stock was delayed by a half-hour.

"It was like trying to get a jumbo jet to take off in turbulent weather," said Kathleen Shelton Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital, an IPO advisory firm. "It's going to be a bumpy ride."

With all of these factors in place on the day of Facebook's IPO, some people may wonder why Facebook's stock didn't do worse.

The answer: Facebook had some help. On Friday, Facebook only got as low as pennies above the offering price of $38 per share but never fell below. The banks that arranged the IPO, the deals underwriters such as Morgan Stanley and others, put in enough "buy" orders at $38 to keep the price from dropping below that level.

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