The initial launch of the Facebook IPO

Marketplace Contributor May 18, 2012

David Brancaccio: Facebook stock had some false starts on its way to its first day of trading just now. First, the stock was supposed to starting trading at 11 o’clock eastern, then 5 after, then at 15 minutes past the hour.

Marketplace’s New York bureau chief Heidi Moore and I sat there waiting for the launch.

Brancaccio: Count together: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… do we have ignition? And it’s just lying there, like a beached whale, at this point. Thirty-eight dollars, no movement, no volume.

Heidi Moore: That’s an excellent metaphor for it. This is a huge IPO: $16 billion — except it doesn’t have a stock price yet.

Brancaccio: So at 11:30 eastern — a half hour late — the new stock finally did begin trading and at this moment, live, it’s, essentially, Heidi Moore, flat: $38.02 a share. That’s not exactly a giant bounce or pop.

Moore: No, it’s still the beached whale of lore from five minutes ago. It’s a really pathetic open for an IPO this anticipated. It shows that the company was greedy in how highly it priced those shares at $38. And it barely opened up; and now it looks like it’s on downward trajectory, which makes Facebook look really bad and unpopular.

Brancaccio: Now in the first few moments when it did finally start to trade, it was up 5 percent or so for a little while.

Moore: Yeah, there’s a sweet spot for IPOs of a 10 percent pop. You want to see that just for respectability. Facebook had it for a couple of minutes, and then started dropping. At 5 percent, you know you’ve made mistakes; you’ve misjudged the demand.

Brancaccio: Now, we were hearing reports late yesterday, the Facebook folks and the underwriters were all in this meeting, trying to figure out: What price do we actually set for this? There was this range — the upper end of this range was $38 a share; they went for that upper range, $38. And you’re thinking maybe a little high?

Moore: I think so. Maybe that meeting was more about triage, you know, trying to pick this thing up. That was way too high. They should have priced it lower, seeing the pop, to make it look like Facebook could sustain the pressure of being a public company.

Brancaccio: Now, these are early days — these are early minutes, actually — this brand-new Facebook stock. We’ll see what happens as things proceed today and the coming days ahead. But if in fact this thing doesn’t come roaring to life, as has happened with other big tech IPOs, what are the implications do you think?

Moore: Yeah, this reminds us of Zynga and of Groupon, but even those companies say big opens. If you don’t have a big open, it really speaks badly of how well investors regard the company. And Facebook was very aloof with Wall Street investors — this might be a sort of karmic revenge, actually.

Brancaccio:Maybe the Facebook founder, Zuckerberg, should have been out there a little more, out on there on the hustings, trying to push this up?

Moore: We should have seen that hoodie more often.

Brancaccio: All right, thank you. Marketplace’s New York bureau chief Heidi Moore.

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