The sobs we have in mind are neither short, audible gasps of breath of those who are invested in Facebook stock, nor are they intended as a bastardly reference of those who, inside and/or outside of the Company, put together and took to fruition this much-awaited I.P.O. (Initial Public Offering). These mnemonic sobs we have in mind represent simply Shares-Of-Bubbly-Stock. For that’s what those 421.2 million shares of Facebook were: Overpriced, bubbly stock.
In Christian ethics – although not in exclusivity – there are a number of vices, most often referred to as the seven deadly or capital sins, which depict the antithetical side of virtue. Of the seven, avarice or greed (Avaritia in Latin) comes at the head of the list for me since its practice affects the wellbeing of others, and not just those who profess it.
And it was this lady, Avaritia, who walked the Red Carpet a week ago, Friday, May 18, in a glittering dress that reminded us of what rapacious capitalism is all about, as shares of Facebook started trading past their scheduled time in the NASDAQ. A very surprising opening with a larger (25 percent) number of shares issued for trade, at a much higher (52 percent) price… or a “more aggressive” price in Wall Street IPO parlance.
On the 32nd anniversary of Mount Saint Helen’s eruption, some people expected a price eruption during the stock’s first day of trading, given past behavior with other IPO’s and Facebook’s pre-eminence in the circle of social media networks. From a 10 to a 30 percent jump in value in its inaugural trading day was not atypical talk. But the shares offered at $38 fizzled, inching just one percent at the close… and offering bad vibes for the trading days ahead, which immediately brought in Avaritia’s favorite board game for these occasions: the blame game.
This game is already in play in Wall Street and beyond, and promises to be one of long and costly duration with a worthy cast of characters, all one-percenters. Roll the dice and point the finger: Was it the NASDAQ’s fault? Or was it Mark Zuckerberg and his top management who dropped the ball? [What the heck is that young multi-billionaire hiding under that hoodie, some are asking… contempt for the dumb middle class?!] What about Morgan Stanley, the lead banker on the IPO? And why exclude the two other giants, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs? And to be fair we must not forget the analysts, and those who claim selective dissemination of material information critical to the evaluation of risk-taking in the purchase of Facebook stock. To make it even more interesting, here we are five days into the game and attorneys have decided to join in with class action litigation which could bring the stakes well into the 10-figure category. Mount Saint Helen’s 1980-eruption brought damage of $2.75 billion in today’s dollars… could Facebook’s fiasco bring financial damages of similar magnitude? This blame board game could certainly become another classic like that game most of us grew up with: monopoly.
There are those who contend that at $38 per share Facebook is a bargain, and that a market capitalization of $100 billion will soon multiply by 2, 3, 4… or more. After all, that very selective group of 3,500 nerds-par-excellence who run the show from Silicon Valley have it all; and that includes the key to super-monetize 900 million users, perhaps a few hundred million more, to the tune of $5, $10 maybe $20 per user… bringing revenues, and after-tax profit, to levels that even Steve Jobs would not have had in his wildest, most creative dreams.
But, of course, there are those realists – count me among them – who think that the world we live in poses a number of constraints on emotional, unrestrained optimism. Time is immutable, and our days still contain 24 hours. In a slow-growing world economy with limited resources, the advertising dollar might shift but not grow much. Yet, innovation will remain rampant, competition constantly knocking at the door. And we mustn’t dismiss disloyalty as a human trait, even among that elite group of 3,500 who could be tempted by that gal who cohabits with Predatory Capitalism, Avaritia.
Bottom line to this Facebook fiasco is clear and simple: Wall Street, once again, treated shares of stock as Casino-land chips with values way outside of the fundamentals’ realm and the likes of companies such as Google. What should have been an offering price in the $10 to $12 range was absurdly made public at $38 per share.
“Don’t cry for me Avaritia… The truth is I never left you.”