SAN FRANCISCO: The historic initial public offering of Facebook Inc did not go as planned on Friday, as the social networking company's sky-high valuation combined with trading glitches left the stock languishing near its offering price at the market close.
Facebook shares began trading late Friday morning and opened 11 per cent above the $38 offering price, but after peaking at about $45 slid rapidly at the end of the day to close at $38.23. The IPO was the third-largest in US history and valued eight-year-old Facebook at $104 billion.
The surprisingly weak debut of a stock that analysts had predicted would climb between 10 and 50 per cent is not likely to dent the business prospects of Facebook, which boasts 900 million users and is upending business practices and social relationships around the world.
But the unexpected developments were a clear setback for Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter on the deal, which sources said was forced to defend the $38 price level by buying shares on the open market. Many market participants said they expected the stock to remain under pressure next week.
The offering also proved an embarrassment for the NASDAQ: the opening was delayed as the exchange struggled with a huge volume of orders, and for much of the day there were long delays in order confirmation. The SEC said late Friday that it was reviewing the situation.
Social media companies and Internet companies that had hoped to benefit from a Facebook halo effect were instead dragged down Friday, with social gaming giant Zynga dropping almost 15 per cent.
Analysts said Facebook may simply have over-reached in raising the IPO price range, pricing at the top of the range and increasing the size of the offering earlier in the week.
"The underwriters got greedy on behalf of selling shareholders and bumped the price high enough that they didn't get much of a bump on the first day," said Bill Smead, chief investment officer at Smead Capital Management, which did not buy Facebook shares in the IPO. "They increased the size of the deal and that really did a number on it."
Skeptics have argued all along that a valuation of more than $100 billion - about equivalent to Amazon.com Inc and exceeding that of Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc combined - was far too high for a company that posted $1 billion in profit and $3.7 billion in revenue in 2011.
Concerns about Facebook's earnings potential were highlighted by General Motors' announcement this week that it would no longer buy paid advertising on Facebook.