Facebook IPO: Hyped up or Undervalued?

The scale of what Facebook has achieved since its inception in 2004 is difficult to fathom. Used as a verb it has become something that is unmissable. Hate it, love it or be indifferent to it, it is simply impossible to not acknowledge its presence in our lives. A website set in shades of blue. You generate the content. Yet once you are hooked and have access to the internet, it is impossible not to check for updates and notifications. It was a key player in the Arab Spring movement. It helps citizens communicate under fundamentalist or totalitarian regimes. It helps you see old classmates age and enjoy news of their children. My 7 year old came with the sooner rather than later request of wanting to be on Facebook.

Country wise and reach numbers are staggering. Facebook reaches more than 901 million active users, with 80% outside the US of A. No one really understands this phenomenon that Mr. Zuckerberg has set rolling. This is reflected in its IPO as well. It probably does not estimate the true potential that is Facebook. The markets seem to be in a quandary on how to estimate the value of such experiential sites. Non-product technology companies are not easy to value.

There are reports that the company’s shares need to stand at about $24 rather than $38. The share price is hovering around $38, the high being at $45. Naysayers have been saying that Facebook has not performed well-some even comparing it to a starlet tripping on the red carpet. Its slowing growth rate is cited as another factor for its poor showing. At 900 million plus Facebook is not going to have accelerating growth rates.

The recent exit by General Motors from Facebook for poor engagement and purchases seems to indicate more advertisers may move out. Yet Facebook keeps its customers engaged, with users returning time after time. It does have the brand image of something you do on your down time. But then again it is during down time, we feel free to discuss with friends thoughts on different subjects. As we go along, we learn their preferences in an organic manner. Rarely has a company’s IPO generated such interest in groups outside of investors. If one could put a value on those who wish they could own Facebook stocks, the numbers would go beyond $38.

Facebook post its IPO decided to buy Karma a mobile social gifting app. Mobiles where Facebook’s young customers increasingly use FB has not been its strongest. By acquiring Tagtile, Karma and Instagram it looks like Facebook is looking at aggressively closing those holes.

There has been speculation Facebook’s price was not allowed to dip below $38 by its group of bankers. This if true can last only a short time, unless investors see real value. At 104 billion, Facebook is geared to go further. How does one value a social behemoth? With data from around the world, you need appropriate tools to capture and monetize it. That seems to be the way forward for Facebook.

Its 28 year old, casual dressing CEO and chairman has changed the rules of the game totally. He sought to make several early backers and partners rich by going public. But it can’t be just that. He is and does everything that spells sure business failure. And yet it has been just the opposite. Millions relate to his product still, and it was business as usual for him as he rung the NASDAQ bell remotely. It didn’t seem too big a deal for him. Yet this upstart has made a formal entry in the time honored route in the market. The lack of fluctuations seems to indicate Facebook is here to stay.

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