Exclusive: Does Facebook’s IPO Make Good Business Sense?By: Abby Johnson - February 4, 2012
Companies file for IPOs all the time, but the recent filing by social networking giant Facebook has seemed to connect with nearly everyone, and in a big way. On Wednesday, Facebook filed for its IPO in hopes to raise $5 billion or more, which would make it the largest initial public offering from an Internet or technology company.
Facebook is unique in that its users have played a significant role, if not the most significant role, in what it is today. According to its S-1 filing, Facebook has 845 million active monthly users. Due to this widespread user base combined with the nature of Facebook, the news of the IPO has been particularly intriguing.
Users are excited because they feel a special connection to Facebook. While it is substantial news, there are some issues being raised about it from a business perspective, particularly over its estimated valuation.
Is Facebook worth $100 billion? What do you think?
According to Francis Gaskins, President and Partner at IPODesktop.com, the past 4-5 quarters are very indicative of its future. Based on the information that was released in the filing, he does not think $100 billion is a reasonable valuation for Facebook.
“At $100 billion market cap, Facebook would be selling at about 53 percent of Google’s cap,” he said.
As he explains, Facebook’s revenue in 2011 was $3.7 billion. Google, on the other hand, had revenue of $46 billion, which is more than 10 times the amount of Facebook’s. Given this data, Gaskins doesn’t see how Facebook is worth 53 percent of Google.
Gaskins also points out that the past quarters are telling of the company’s rate of growth. He told us he was “quite surprised” when he saw the details.
“[If] you look at what happened for December 2010, March, June, and September of 2011, oddly enough, what you will find is the operating earnings were flat,” he said. “The net after tax earnings were flat, and the margins – the profit margins – went down.”
He believes the $100 billion valuation points to the ego of Mark Zuckerberg as well as the fact that Facebook is falling into the trap of believing their own press releases, a move that he calls “very, very dangerous.”
“The credibility of management’s forecast is very, very important,” he said.
Gaskins told us that Facebook didn’t have a solid strategy for being profitable that would appease Wall Street, especially since its revenue was flat even without any real competitors. However, now that Google+ exists and is appearing to gain ground, he said that Facebook’s current projections could really hurt it. He believes that Facebook should have filed its IPO last summer when it was the only player in the space.
Another issue he sees from a business perspective is how Facebook is defined.
“It’s not a technology company,” he said. “It’s a consumer of technology, which is different. They’re offering a service, and they’re not selling technology.”
Facebook is, however, an Internet advertising company like Google. According to Price Waterhouse, the yearly compound growth rate for Internet advertising will be 12 percent through 2015. So, at this rate, it doesn’t translate into high multiple market growth for Facebook.
With these revelations and others being analyzed, the social giant will likely face a lot of scrutiny. What’s bad is that Facebook is about to enter the quiet period, which means that it will not be able to respond to the negativity.
On the bright side, Gaskins did say that Facebook’s IPO would have a positive impact on the economy.
“It’ll definitely help the economy because there will be a lot more money flowing around in the tech area,” he said.