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In this image provided by Facebook, Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, center, rings the opening bell of the Nasdaq stock market, Friday, May 18, 2012, from Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The social media company priced its IPO on Thursday at $38 per share, and beginning Friday regular investors will have a chance to buy shares. (AP Photo/Nasdaq via Facebook, Zef Nikolla)
Facebook debut has something to ‘like’ even if it turned out flat
IPO » Shares failed to sizzle, but that opened door to ordinary investors.
First Published May 18 2012 09:47 am • Last Updated May 18 2012 07:26 pm

New York • It was barely a "like" and definitely not a "love" from Facebook investors as the online social network’s stock failed to live up to the hype in its trading debut Friday.

One of the most anticipated IPOs in Wall Street history ended on a flat note, with Facebook’s stock closing at $38.23, up 23 cents from Thursday night’s pricing.

At a glance

Nasdaq glitch confuses investors

Some investors who thought they had bought Facebook shares at the opening of trading were left without knowing for hours whether they had received them. Federal regulators are looking into glitches that caused traders problems changing and canceling their orders Friday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Technical issues had already delayed the trading of Facebook’s stock by half an hour.

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That meant the company founded in 2004 in a Harvard dorm room has a market value of about $105 billion, more than Amazon.com, McDonald’s and Silicon Valley icons Hewlett-Packard and Cisco.

It also gave 28-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg a stake worth $19,252,698,725.50.

"Going public is an important milestone in our history," Zuckerberg said before he pushed a button that rang Nasdaq’s opening bell from company headquarters at 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, Calif. "But here’s the thing: Our mission isn’t to be a public company. Our mission is to make the world more open and connected."

But for many seeking a big first-day pop in Facebook’s share price, the increase of six-tenths of one percent was a letdown.

"This is like kissing your sister," said John Fitzgibbon, founder of IPO Scoop, a research firm. "With all the drumbeats and hype, I don’t think there’ll be barroom bragging tonight."

Added Nick Einhorn, an analyst with IPO advisory firm Renaissance Capital: "It wasn’t quite as exciting as it could have been. But I don’t think we should view it as a failure."

Indeed, the small jump in price could be seen as an indication that Facebook and the investment banks that arranged the IPO priced the stock in an appropriate range.

It was good for ordinary investors, who are shut out from the IPO price and have to buy the stock at a high price on day one.


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Had the stock shot to $60, early investors would have been left feeling that they had not gotten their money’s worth for their stakes.

Facebook offered 15 percent of its available stock in the IPO, so there was enough to meet demand. The other 85 percent is still owned by Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives, employees and early investors. In comparison, Google offered just 7.2 percent of its stock when it went public in 2004 — and rose 18 percent on day one.

Here was Facebook’s "timeline" Friday, trading under the symbol "FB" on the Nasdaq Stock Market:

The stock opened at 11:30 a.m. at $42.05, but soon dipped to $38.01. It briefly traded as high as $45 and by noon was at $40.40. It fluttered throughout the afternoon and hugged the $38 mark for much of the final hour, before closing at $38.23.

By the end of the day, about 570 million shares had changed hands, a huge trading volume for any company.

TD Ameritrade reported that in the first 45 minutes of trading, Facebook accounted for a record 24 percent of trades executed by its customers.

By comparison, on its first day back on the stock market, in November 2010, General Motors represented 7 percent of trades on the online brokerage.

Steve Quirk, who oversees trading strategy at TD Ameritrade, said that about 60,000 orders were lined up before Facebook opened.

Technical glitches delayed the start of Facebook’s trading by a half-hour. The Securities and Exchange Commission also is investigating problems traders encountered in changing and canceling their orders.

Other social media companies, most of which have gone public in the last year, saw their shares plummet when it became clear what kind of reception Facebook was getting in the public market. Shares of game-maker Zynga Inc. and reviews site Yelp Inc. both hit all-time lows.

The stock market will now begin assigning a dollar value to Facebook based primarily on its financial performance. If Facebook can continue to increase its revenue and profit at the rate it has the past few years, the stock should rise. Google reported strong earnings after it became a public company, and its stock price more than tripled the first year, from $85 to $280.

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