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Where Does Facebook Go After the Faceplant?

It depends on two trends, only one of which FB can control


At this point, teeing off on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has become the town carousel — everyone gets a turn.

Facebook fell down the stairs again to open Tuesday trading, this time by about 7% before collecting itself a bit. At $33 per share as of this writing, FB is sitting about 13% down from its original $38 pricing.

Which would be a relief to some, considering how many people bought in at around $42 when Facebook started trading. For those unfortunate investors, losses currently are etched around 22%, if they haven’t jumped ship by now.

Fun stuff, right? So how’d we get here?

For starters, the Nasdaq shook investors on Friday with its IPO faceplant, letting technical glitches get hold of one of the biggest deals in history for a half-hour and putting numerous trades essentially in limbo while investors stared at computer screens asking (or screaming), “So, where are my shares?”

Then the second that Facebook went live, hype hit a cold wall of reality erected upon FB’s own business and the social sector in general.

On Monday, Facebook was further shelled after revelations that Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) was acting as a crutch for FB shares during the Friday afternoon dive.

This morning, Reuters reported that Morgan Stanley consumer Internet analyst Scott Devitt actually was going to trim the outlook for Facebook’s revenues days before the IPO — an action spurred from an amended filing from Facebook concerning the company’s worries about mobile advertising.

Folks, this is the Medusa of IPOs.

And the funny thing is, while I don’t think anyone tossing out opinions on Thursday (well, save at least a couple people behind the scenes at Morgan Stanley, apparently) could ever have seen the Facebook IPO playing out as it has, many people still saw it playing out poorly.

Beating the drum here at InvestorPlace was our IPO expert, Tom Taulli. His full analysis of the Facebook IPO can be read here, but I’ll summarize: Facebook is a strong business with a great brand. However, the IPO is overhyped, the company has monetization problems (mostly related to mobile) that haven’t gotten as much attention as they should, and FB is going to have to let off some froth before it’s worth getting into. As in, a couple months’ worth.

He couldn’t have been more right. Facebook, like a good pour of Sam Adams, had a frothy head you could float a bottle cap on. And clearly, monetization of mobile is an issue, as Devitt has come to realize.

So, where does Facebook go from here?

Well, if Facebook had been trading for, say, more than three days, it might be worth consulting the charts, but that’s out.

With a price-to-earnings ratio still at about 100, it’d be easy to predict more FB losses on its high valuation alone, but (1) Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN, P/E ~180) is proof that occasionally, asinine valuations can persist for years, and (2) the social sector isn’t playing by our rules. Zillow (NASDAQ:Z)? P/E ~300. LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD)? P/E ~650. Trying to compare social valuations to “traditional” ratios is like comparing the Celtics-76ers score to a Nationals-Phillies result.

So the simple (and dissatisfying) answer for the very short term, then, is “wherever emotion will take it.” Losses Monday and Tuesday were pretty reactionary in nature, but in fairness, they were reactions to pretty troubling news. Tuesday’s partial recovery by midday was promising, though. Frankly, I’m curious to see how Facebook trades on a day where it isn’t the lead headline across the Internet, but who knows when that will be.

Looking past at least the next couple days, two things will continue to weigh on Facebook: the growing awareness of Facebook’s difficulty in monetizing mobile, and current market trends.

Regarding the first, Facebook — and the rest of the world — can’t seem to figure out how to get money out of ads on mobile devices. Heck, it’s hard just to fit ads on mobile devices. And as for the second, as summer nears, “Sell in May and go away” has seemingly taken hold, and investors are piling into income to ride out the next few months. Considering Facebook hasn’t yet declared a dividend that I’m aware of, that probably doesn’t help FB’s case.

For now, if you’re not in Facebook, just wait. I know Warren Buffett would say “be greedy when others are fearful,” but he doesn’t have an adage for when people are downright terrified.

Kyle Woodley is the assistant editor of InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Follow him on Twitter at @KyleWoodley.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media, http://investorplace.com/ipo-playbook/where-does-facebook-go-after-the-faceplant/.

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