Is It Time to ‘Like’ Facebook?

August 17, 2012 at 11:26 pm Leave a comment

After a pompous IPO back in May, investors definitely did not like Facebook the stock, and the price has been steadily dropping ever since, reaching all-time low at nearly 50% below the offering price.  So, is it time to finally ‘like’ the stock?

There are many arguments against that.  Here’s the rundown:

  • Valuation.  Even after the drop, the valuation relative to most other Internet names remains expensive.  Facebook forward P/E ratio is still high at 30, while P/S (price to sales) is at 10.  Compare that to Google’s forward P/E of 14 and P/S of 5 – and that’s a fair comparison, since Google and Facebook projected growth rates are fairly similar.
  • Lockup Expiration.  Facebook has over 2 billion shares outstanding, but only about one billion float.  The difference is currently in lockup period — early investors and employees own the stock, but will be only able to sell after lockup period expires in several tranches.  The first tranche of 217 million shares became available to trade this week, and obligingly the stock declined.  But by far the largest chunk of shares, about 1 billion, will be available to trade on November 14, creating very heavy selling pressure on the shares.
  • Taxes.  With all the talk about fiscal cliff, there is uncertainty about tax rules next year.  There is a good possibility that capital gains tax rate will be higher in 2013.  So all these early investors may be tempted to sell this year to lock in favorable tax rates, creating selling pressure at year end.
  • Taxes – again.  Those unfortunate investors who bought near IPO prices may want to sell their shares this year to harvest capital losses, yet again creating selling pressure.

Taking a longer-term view, however, Facebook is certainly a unique company.  Very few companies can boast nearly a billion customers, and there is no real competition (Google+ being very far behind).  The trick, of course, is to figure out how to effectively monetize all those customers, and you can be assured that Facebook management is concentrating on that right now.  Netflix chief Reed Hastings who is on Facebook board and billionaire investor George Soros subscribe to that view: they recently bought $1 million and $10 million worth of Facebook stock, respectively (both are now down slightly in these positions).

My view is that aggressive investors may want to establish a small starting position now.  However, heavy headwinds this year as described above will probably make you like Facebook stock price much better later this year (unless you already own it, of course).

Entry filed under: Stock Ideas.

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Blog Author

Leon Shirman's long-term investment philosophy is summarized in his book, “42 Rules for Sensible Investing”, also available from Amazon.


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