Zuck Loses Billions As Facebook Shares Sink, But Does It Matter?

By May 22, 2012

After selling some 30.2 million shares at his company’s IPO price of $38, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg owns approximately 503.6 million shares in the titanic social networking company. His stake in the company was valued at $19.14 billion at the IPO price, but since Facebook’s stock fell to an intra-day low of $33 on the second day after its IPO, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth was down as much as $2.52 billion at Monday’s lows.

There are two reasons cited to explain Facebook’s precipitous 10 percent declines: technical difficulties and uncertainty regarding Facebook’s long-term business prospects. Friday’s IPO was plagued with technical difficulties. The IPO was delayed for almost half an hour, and a computer glitch prevented order confirmations from going through, which left traders uncertain about which price they bought or sold their Facebook stock and left the NASDAQ scrambling to write manual order confirmations. In an email sent to traders on Monday, NASDAQ chalked up the delay and order processing issues up to a “technical glitch.” Asked by CNNMoney what he thought of the explanation, one trader said:

People didn’t know where their orders stood, and it became a big guessing game. Nasdaq couldn’t handle it — they blew it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Tom Joyce, chief executive of market-making firm Knight Capital Group Inc. (KCG), in a CNBC interview Monday estimated that total losses from the episode may hit $100 million across all impacted firms. About 30 million shares’ worth of transactions were effected by the pre-IPO trading glitch, and in spite of the magnitude of the disruption, officials from NASDAQ have gone on record to announce that “at least” $13 million will be earmarked to make good on bad trades. Traders are understandably miffed and uncertain that the NASDAQ – home to the likes of Apple, Microsoft, and Google – can handle popular IPOs (tech or otherwise) in the future.

And then there’s the matter of Facebook’s valuation, and whether the company’s current and expected future revenues justify its massive $104 billion valuation on IPO day. The social network made billions of dollars in 2011. Granted, it made only a few dollars per user, on average, but there’s a convincing case to be made that Facebook hasn’t yet begun to explore alternate revenue streams beyond display advertising, which (if I may editorialize a bit) is a decade-old, rather tired business model that is easily circumvented with tools like Ad Block.

With news of big names like General Motors pulling its Facebook ad accounts, it’s easy to say that Facebook’s current business model is broken, but it’s just as easy to say that Facebook might not be the best place to advertise $20,000+ automobiles when the bulk of the companies, which successfully advertise on Facebook, are offering very cheap or free “Software As A Service” products.

Sure, Google – Facebook’s closest analog – makes more money per user on display ads, and it has revenue streams (like premium enterprise services, among others) that Facebook, quite frankly, doesn’t have right now. But it’s also a much older company; it’s had the time and assets to spend on innovating new businesses. It’s easy to forget that Facebook is still in many ways a scrappy 8 year-old startup, even if it’s valuation might suggest it should be making more money. The fact of the matter is, it’s not quite fair to compare Facebook to Google, or to Apple or Microsoft, because each company has at least a decade or more lead time on Facebook, besides the fact that those companies offer their investors and customers a vastly different value proposition than Facebook.

Whether Facebook’s recent decline is attributable to skittish investors’ concerns about the NASDAQ’s ability to correct any IPO day mistakes, or to the company’s current and future business model, or to the fact that CEO Mark Zuckerberg wore a hoodie during Facebook’s roadshow, it’s all unclear. It’s likely a combination of all these factors (perhaps excepting the whole thing with the hoodie). But a few days of trading does not a positive or negative trend make, so it might do analysts and pundits some good to lay low for a bit, lest their bearishness comes back to bite them if and when Facebook pulls an Apple and rises from the ashes of mediocrity in an appropriately astonishing fashion.

For the record: On Monday, the company’s second day of trading on the NASDAQ, shares in Facebook opened lower, reaching an intra-day low of $33 and trading as high as $36.66. The stock closed at $34.03 and declined an additional 0.73% in after hours trading to settle $33.78 per share.

Cover Image Credit: Business Insider