Life after Facebook IPO
It's been just over a month since Facebook's IPO fell flat and in that time, the market for initial public offerings has collapsed.
No company has gone public since May 18, compared with 19 in the same period a year ago. Fourteen offerings have been withdrawn or delayed, according to Dealogic.
There were no public offerings scheduled last week. Of course, thanks to the European debt crisis, financial markets haven't been terribly conducive to IPOs. Still, venture capitalists say the fallout from Facebook's rocky IPO is making companies —especially those in the technology sector— cautious about going public.
"It pretty much wiped the counter clean for the time being," says Francis Gaskins, president of researcher IPOdesktop. "It sucked the air out of the room."
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Internet industry that captivated the investment world in the late 1990s and went bust as the next decade began had pinned its hopes on Facebook's stock market debut to signify the beginning of a new era. In Silicon Valley, the IPO had been billed as "the big one", an earth-shaking event that would unleash a wave of investment in technology start-ups.
Instead, from the first-day-pop-that-wasn't to the investor lawsuits and falling share prices that followed, Facebook's US$16 billion initial public offering has resulted in nothing but trepidation among tech entrepreneurs and those who supply their early funding.
"There were a lot of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs that really have been waiting for Facebook to go public," says Sam Hamadeh, the CEO of PrivCo, a research firm that follows privately held companies. "Everybody's been told just wait 'til May 18, Facebook is going to pop, everybody will get very excited about it ... and then you have the opportunity to go public this summer with that halo effect."
That bright, glowing aura never materialised. After pricing at US$38 the night before its market debut, Facebook's stock shot as high as US$45 before settling at US$38.23 at the end of its first trading day. Since then, the stock dropped as low as US$25.52. Last Thursday, it was trading at US$32.05 down 16 per cent from its IPO price.
Facebook Inc. has joined the ranks of other recently-public Internet companies that are trading below their IPO prices. There's Zynga Inc., whose games are played mainly on Facebook and Pandora Media Inc, the online radio service. Groupon Inc, which offers online deals to subscribers, went public on November 4 at US$20 and is now trading around US$10.
And Friday, May 18, will be remembered as the day Facebook's much-ballyhooed IPO landed flat on its belly, marred by technical glitches at the Nasdaq Stock Market that delayed the stock's trading by half an hour. There's now agreement among investors that Facebook may not be worth as much as Amazon.com, or half as much as Google — not yet at least. The Menlo Park, California, USA, company's stock is down 17 per cent since its first day of trading.
Even Morgan Stanley, the highly-regarded underwriting bank that ushered the likes of Apple, Netscape and Google into the public markets, has come under fire for its handling of Facebook's IPO. Critics accuse the bank of offering too many shares at too high a price. They also claim it gave special treatment to its high-end clients.
Now, a host of companies are feeling a different kind of Facebook effect. The social network's stock has weighed on the stocks of other social media companies. Zynga has seen its stock fall 18 per cent since Facebook started trading. And it may have influenced online travel site Kayak Software Inc to delay its IPO.
There are 165 companies that have filed their intention to go public, says Nick Einhorn, an analyst at Renaissance, an IPO advisory firm. This might be understated, though, if companies have started to use the confidential filing process that's part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS Act designed to help startups and small businesses grow. The number of IPOs, Einhorn added, has generally increased over the past three years, as the US has emerged from the 2008 financial crisis.
Now, companies that are already profitable are going public. Yet they are not seeing the eye-popping stock price increases once they begin trading. The biggest one of them all, Facebook, the one with 900 million active users, with US$3.7 billion in revenue and US$1 billion in net income last year, certainly didn't.
Duncan Davidson, managing director at VC firm Bullpen Capital says the Internet bubble of the 1990s saw a lot of big IPOs burst because "there were crappy companies going out".
"Facebook is not a crappy company. This is just a blip in the poorly handled offering," he said last week.
/AP New York