Facebook tumbles below issue price as investors scramble to sell shares
MORE than $10bn (€7.8bn) was wiped off Facebook's value on its first full day as a public company, rattling investors and provoking criticism of the social network's banking advisers.
Facebook slumped as much as 13pc over the first hour of trading in New York, as shareholders scrambled to sell shares in what had been pitched as the greatest growth story of the decade.
The company's founder Mark Zuckerberg, who married his long-term girlfriend over the weekend, saw the value of his fortune drop by more than $2bn to just under $17bn, as the shares closed down 11pc, at $34.03.
"The market is now collectively reflecting the real risks around Facebook," said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group, which has a "sell" rating on the company. "The danger for Facebook, is that when you price it very high, the risks to that price now become the overarching narrative for the company."
The much vaunted $104bn flotation – the largest ever by a US technology company – is rapidly turning into a major embarrassment for the social networking site and Wall Street. Technical problems suffered by Nasdaq delayed the opening on Friday.
The company's main banking adviser Morgan Stanley is thought to have bought up shares in significant volumes to support Facebook's stock after the lacklustre float last week. That support is likely to have been withdrawn in part yesterday, accentuating the share price fall.
Facebook's advisers shared $176m in fees for managing the flotation.
In an attempt to diffuse the mounting criticism, Robert Greifeld, the chief executive of the Nasdaq, admitted that the flotation had not been the company's "finest hour." However, he insisted that the technical glitches were not behind the lack of demand for Facebook shares that became evident yesterday.
Analysts said Facebook's troubled start to life as a public company only intensifies the pressure on Mr Zuckerberg and his top lieutenants to justify a valuation that makes it one of the S&P 500's most expensive companies. Based on current earnings, only Amazon and Equity Residential are more expensive to buy, according to Bloomberg.
"The valuation is all about future expectations," said Andrew Caldwell, a valuations partner at BDO in London. "There's no basis for it in current performance."
In the days before the flotation, Facebook warned that it had yet to find a way of generating meaningful revenue from the growing army of users who access Facebook through mobile devices rather than desktop computers.
The number of Facebook's mobile users soared 41pc to 526m in the 12 months to March.