Today's the day that a whole new group of Facebook shareholders were allowed to sell their stock and, as expected, it has hurt the already ailing stock's value. FB is now trading down around 5 percent for the day, around the $20 mark -- a 50 percent drop from the original IPO price, which is a meaningful marker in a way, but also not at all, since these are just arbitrary times to discuss a failing company -- $20 just seems like a nice round (low) number to discuss what's up with Facebook.
Today's movement, however, is significant because it is the beginning of a wave of 1.6 billion shares that will make their way onto the market over the next few months. Facebook's public debut included a "lock up" agreement, which requires that certain people hold onto their stocks. That set-up is supposed to help the company in its first days as a public corporation, as CNN's Julianne Pepitone explains. "Lockups are meant to prevent the market from being swamped with too many of a company's shares immediately after an IPO. Keeping stocks scarce can help boost their value," she writes. Then, once these bad boys hit the market, the stock "tanks," in the words of Pepitone, because people are furiously trying to offload their shares before they devalue further. Today was just the first round of this cycle, so, things are all down for Facebook, then? Not everyone sees it that way.
Since Facebook already lost so much of its value, these new shareholders won't hurt the stock as much as they could, argues one analyst. "If Facebook was trading at $30, we would see a much larger effect from the lockup expiry. But at $20? Not so much," Steve Place, founder of options analytics firm investingwithoptions.com, told Reuters's Doris Frankel. And, so far, he's right. The stock is down, but not more than the averaged four percent it has moved each day since hitting the market. Also, it's hovering around that same $20 price it hit a few weeks ago, which also happens to be around the exact value that some thought Facebook should have had when it went public.
After having watched Facebook's sad stock performance over the last few months, one would think shareholders would want to unload as fast as possible. That's what one former Facebook employee expected would happen, he told The New York Times's Somini Sengupta. Instead, it looks like the shareholders have faith in the long-term value, as Adam Rifkin argued over at TechCrunch, pointing to the $10 billion in liquid assets Facebook has amassed. Some investors are still bullish, says Sengupta, noting the things the company has going for it. "Facebook is profitable, it keeps its nearly one billion users glued to their screens longer than any other Internet site, and it is aggressively experimenting with new ways to drum up advertising," she writes.
So, even though Facebook's trading down for the day, we'd say it passed a test of sorts. Of course, this is just the first round of shares that has gotten released. So, it will have to prove itself all over again in the next few months.