A few weeks ago, a Consumerism Commentary reader asked me on Facebook whether it would be a good idea to purchase shares of Facebook at $48 a piece. I do not give stock buying advice, but I mentioned that shares had recently been sold for $44.10 on the secondary market, so if someone were to accept an offer to buy shares at $48, they’d have to believe that the value had increased since the auction.
Interest in buying shares of Facebook has increased as rumors about the company’s going public continued, and when Facebook finally filed for its initial public offering (IPO) in February, shareholders (mostly company employees and investors willing to buy in the secondary market) celebrated. The company now plans to become a public company on May 18, though that date is somewhat flexible. Also flexible is the target range for the initial share price when the company goes public.
Facebook has set its open share price to be between $28 and $35. With the shares Facebook’s famed CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, plans to sell at the opening, he will personally cash in $1 billion, while the company raises at least $12 billion through new shares. The total valuation of the company could lie anywhere between $75 and $98 billion, according to CNN Money.
There is no doubt that Facebook is the biggest success story in technology in this century so far. Those who invested early, friends of Zuckerberg since the beginnings of the company and employees who received significant amounts of stock options, stand to be able to cash in their shares and retire pleasantly wealthy. Those buying shares on or after May 18 may be able to catch a star continuing to rise.
Google continued to perform well after its IPO, for example. Investors were concerned about overpaying for Google shares at about $100 around the time of that company’s initial public offering, but today’s price is over $600. Facebook’s shares will be sold at a price-to-earnings ratio of 99, higher than almost all companies in the S&P 500 index, making the investment seem to be at a high risk for its price to fall. Both Zynga and Groupon, after going public last year, are now trading below their initial share prices.
Are you planning to invest in Facebook’s common shares once you can buy them through the stock exchange? Has Facebook seen its heyday of growth or is there more to come from the company?
Update: Although average individual investors have traditionally had limited access to initial public offerings, Facebook, following a trend of other technology companies going public, will likely be opening its IPO up to E*Trade. If you have an E*Trade account in good standing, you can indicate how many shares of Facebook you would like and the maximum price you’d like to pay. E*Trade will distribute the shares it receives among its individual investors who bid high enough.
Updated May 30, 2012 and originally published May 4, 2012.