NEW YORK — Facebook was supposed to soar. Instead, it plunged.
After the social network’s stock fizzled on Friday in its long-awaited debut, its stock fell 11 percent Monday, even as the rest of the stock market rallied.
The downward spiral has left some people sitting on big losses, and others scratching their heads. After all, nothing fundamental has changed at Facebook in the days since the much-hyped company came to the stock market – Facebook still has more than 900 million users, 28-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg controls the company, and it is still one of the few profitable Internet companies to go public.
Facebook’s stock closed Monday at $34.03, down 11 percent from Friday’s closing price of $38.23. The investment banks that arranged Facebook’s offering set a price of $38 on Thursday. Although many investors had hoped for a big first-day pop, Facebook’s stock opened Friday at $42.05 and fluctuated between $45 and $38 throughout the day.
Some factors in Facebook stock turbulence:
• The IPO occurred the same week that the markets posted their worst performance so far in 2012. The S&P 500 index fell 4 percent.
• Meanwhile, Europe was trying to avert financial disaster.
• At the same time, the American public’s love affair with the stock market continued to wane. People have yanked over $400 billion from U.S. stock mutual funds since 2008.
• Banks are being cautious too. All this is happening in the backdrop where banks are under pressure from regulators to become more conservative after the financial crisis.
“Regulators want banks to take less risk,” said Larry Tabb, founder and CEO of Tabb Group, a markets research firm. “To support a $100 billion offering can be challenging in this environment.”
• Investors were also spooked by the trading glitches at the Nasdaq stock market on Friday. Some people weren’t sure if their trades had been executed, and trading of the stock was delayed by a half-hour.
“It was like trying to get a jumbo jet to take off in turbulent weather,” said Kathleen Shelton Smith, principal of Renaissance Capital, IPO research. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
With all of these factors in place, some people may wonder why Facebook’s stock didn’t do worse. The answer: Facebook had some help. On Friday, Facebook got as low as pennies above the offering price of $38 per share but never fell below. The banks that arranged the IPO, the deals underwriters such as Morgan Stanley and others, put in enough “buy” orders at $38 to keep the price from dropping below that level.
It’s a customary gesture from underwriters to support the company they helped bring to market, explains Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida. It’s a way to save face and show that the company and the bankers gauged an appropriate level of demand from investors and valued the company correctly.
Facebook sold 421 million shares, one of the largest IPOs on record.
“Facebook has raised cost of capital for all the companies that come with an IPO in its wake,” said Smith.