Getting your own slice of the Facebook IPO

A woman watches Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking in a promotional video ahead of the company's IPO.

Tess Vigeland: All right, already. Fine. Uncle!

Despite our insistence, our wise insistence, week in and week out, that it is not smart to invest in individual stocks, you've been begging to know how to own a piece of Facebook. It's going public on Friday. And apparently there is, indeed, a way to get in on the frenzy.

Frankly, I think I'll take the day off and go hide in a cave somewhere. But for those of you who just can't turn away from that bright, shining light, here's our senior business correspondent Bob Moon with some friendly advice.


Bob Moon: The official video supporting Facebook's stock offering includes an idealistic pitch from Mark Zuckerberg -- who, in the same week he turns 28, stands to see his personal net worth ring up to more than $15 billion. He vows not to forget the 900 million users who make up his empire.

Mark Zuckerberg, in video: In everything that we do, we really want to honor the fact that this is a network of people, and that we're all here because of the people using Facebook.

As if to show he's not just offering platitudes, Facebook has included the online retail brokerage E*Trade on the list of firms distributing the initial stock. Fidelity and Charles Schwab are also taking requests for shares, and the New York Times quoted unnamed sources as saying as much as 25 percent of the more than 300 million shares being offered could be allocated to "retail investors."

Joe Magyer: I like the spirit of it, and if nothing else, it shows that they're serious about trying to get a little more of their user base involved.

Joe Magyer is senior analyst at the Motley Fool investors' website.

Joe Magyer: 900 million people, there's a pretty good business case for letting some people in on that.

A survey by the Motley Fool found the buzz is attracting attention -- especially among relatively novice investors, four in 10 of whom said they're planning to buy Facebook shares. When I spoke to financial planner Robert Pagliarini at Southern California's Pacifica Wealth Advisors, he'd just taken a call from a client determined to get in on the action.

Robert Pagliarini: Who, strangely enough, does not use Facebook, but is excited about this IPO and wants to buy in.

Pagliarini is skeptical, though, and tried to talk her out of it. Even individual billionaires are classified as "retail investors," and they have a much better chance as the favored clients of the big underwriters. So, Pagliarini doubts many smaller customers will have much luck landing shares at their issue price.

Pagliarini: If someone could get in at the IPO price, I would say, "Go for it." I think it makes sense. Would I be a buyer if I wasn't in at the IPO price? No.

Pagliarini points out E*Trade is taking "conditional" orders -- minimum request, around $15,000 -- which the firm's website says "will not guarantee an allocation of shares."

Pagliarini: This just qualifies you to potentially, possibly be a Facebook owner.

Translation: Don't get your hopes up.

But what if you just can't resist the urge to own a piece of Facebook? Pagliarini expects the price to "pop" when trading starts, and buying then could turn out to be just as risky as some other recent tech IPOs, which quickly saw stock values dip. Still tempted? Pagliarini recommends capping your price with a commonly-used tactic called a "limit order."

Pagliarini: You're saying, "I really want to buy shares of Facebook, but I want to set the maximum price that I am willing to buy it at." If I can buy it at $50 or below, let's do it. More than that -- forget it, I'm not interested.

Or, you might just consider what the Motley Fool's Joe Magyer plans to do.

Magyer: I'm going to watch Facebook for a few quarters before diving in. I think it's a great business but an expensive stock. I'd like to see what some results look like before I hop into the pool.

If you insist on jumping in now, Magyer cautions, remember that you'll be swimming with sharks.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.


Vigeland: All right, so maybe you're dreaming of rolling around in all that cash you'll make from Facebook's IPO. If that is your dream, we want to hear about it. And any other money-related dreams you're having -- actual dreams, while you sleep. We'll be talking to a psychologist in the next few weeks about dreams and money Let us know via e-mail, on Facebook or, if you can fit it into 140 characters, tweet me @radiotess.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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