By Patrick A. Heller
Commentary on Precious Metals Prepared for CoinWeek.com
Last Friday, Facebook’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) hit the market. Early Tuesday morning this week, it already looks like another Wall Street snafu.
In the run up to the IPO, the stock had been expected to be priced in the $28 to $35 range. The original plan was to sell 340 million shares. In the days before the IPO, the issue price was raised to $38 and the quantity of shares was increased to 425 million. It looks like most of the incremental shares came from early Facebook insiders who were cashing out (not a good sign during an IPO).
The theoretical plan by the banks underwriting the IPO was that Facebook’s shares would rise 5-10% above the $38 price by the close of the first day of trading. The stock did open at $42.05 and rose as high as $45 last Friday. Then the bottom fell out, with the shares trading at $38.23 at the close. This was an increase of less than 1%.
The news was worse early this week. It fell all the way to $34.03 at the close Monday. In early trading Tuesday, the share price touched a low of $30.98.
A new piece of bad news hit the market. As reported by Alistair Barr of Reuters, Facebook’s lead underwriters, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs had cut their revenue projections for Facebook during the time that they conducted their “Roadshow” to promote Facebook in advance of the IPO. These three underwriters informed a number of hedge funds and major investors before the IPO, but did not share this same information with the investing public. With this new information, the lack of demand for Facebook shares last Friday is easier to understand.
In order to obtain the underwriting opportunities, the banks agreed to accept only 1.1% of the proceeds of the IPO, which worked out to about $176 million. In return for accepting such fees, the underwriters guarantee that all of the shares in the offering will sell at the stated price, standing to purchase themselves any shares that might not be bought by other investors. One researcher, Sam Hamadeh, estimated that the underwriters were stuck purchasing about $380 million of Facebook stock last Friday in order to fulfill their guarantee.
In effect, these banks had to pay out in excess of $200 million above the fees they would receive for the Facebook IPO. As a consequence, shares of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs all fell on Monday.
With the latest expectations being that the previous week’s JPMorgan Chase loss from its derivatives trading will exceed $5 billion instead of the original report of $2 billion, the value of paper assets have again been clobbered by the growing Facebook fiasco. Don’t be surprised if major behind-the-scenes manipulation tactics are used to support the share prices of the underwriters and Facebook itself for the short-term. From the US government’s perspective, bailing out these entities is necessary to stem any further panic among investors in paper assets. Uncle Sam definitely doesn’t want the general public to abandon stocks, bonds and currencies and replace them with purchases of tangible assets like physical gold and silver.
Patrick A. Heller owns Liberty Coin Service and Premier Coins & Collectibles in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Numismaster (http://www.numismaster.com under “News & Articles). His award-winning radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com.