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Facebook’s stock price will also depend somewhat on broad economic forces, as well as the whims of investors.
Facebook is one of those rare companies whose IPO transcends Wall Street’s money lust. Since its start as a scrappy network for college students, Facebook has come to define social networking by getting its 900 million users around the world to share everything from photos of their pets to their deepest thoughts.
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.
Most tech companies going public want a big rise in their debut to show they’re "strong, dynamic companies standing out in the crowd," said Francis Gaskins, president of researcher IPOdesktop, but Facebook already has that image, and so may not care.
Few of the Internet companies to go public recently have been profitable. But Facebook had net income of $205 million in the first three months of 2012, on revenue of $1.06 billion. In 2011, it earned $1 billion on revenue of $3.7 billion, up from earnings of $606 million and revenue of $2 billion a year earlier.
That’s a far cry from 2007, when it posted a net loss of $138 million and had revenue of $153 million. The company makes most of its money from advertising. It also takes a cut from the money people spend on virtual items in Facebook games such as "FarmVille."
Facebook’s public debut marked a milestone in the history of the Internet. In 1995, Netscape Communications’ IPO gave people their first chance to invest in a company whose graphical Web browser made the Internet more engaging and easier to navigate. Its hotly anticipated IPO lit the fuse that ignited the dot-com boom. That explosion of entrepreneurial activity and investment culminated five years later in a devastating bust that obliterated the notion that the Internet had hatched a "new economy."
It took Google Inc.’s IPO in 2004 to prove that an Internet company with a revolutionary idea could be profitable. In the process, the Internet search leader is forcing other industries to adapt to a new order where people have come to expect to be able to find just about anything they want by entering a few words into a box on any device with an Internet connection.
Facebook’s IPO almost certainly will enrich other up-and-coming entrepreneurs as Zuckerberg uses the company’s cash and stock to buy other startups in an effort to bring in other talented engineers and promising technology. That’s what Google has been doing for years. Since it went public in 2004, Google has spent $10.2 billion buying nearly 200 other companies. Those figures don’t include Google’s pending $12.5 billion acquisition of cellphone maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., which is still awaiting regulatory approval in China.
Zuckerberg’s biggest deal so far came when he agreed to buy Instagram, a maker of a popular mobile app for photos, for $1 billion in April. Because most of the deal is being paid for in stock, Instagram is already getting richer. Based on Facebook’s current share price, Instagram is in line to receive about $1.2 billion.
Friday’s debut, though, resulted in deals worth much less.
Alper Aydinoglu, a DePaul University student who got 50 shares via Etrade at $38, said he was "disappointed with the first day of trading."
His gain on paper: $11.50, but that was before Etrade’s standard commission of $9.99.
Aydinoglu still called it an excellent learning opportunity.
"On top of everything, I now have the bragging rights that I participated in one of the most popular IPOs of all time."
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