Don’t Buy Facebook Stock. Yet.
Facebook’s stock launches into public markets today. Here’s why I won’t join the fray quite yet.
Facebook Does Not Have A Great Monetized Product.
The key word is “monetized.” Google AdWords, which is Google’s paid search product, is the gold standard of online advertising.
Bottom line: Facebook’s revenue performance isn’t going to be the tech rocket ship some people expect. In fact, I expect their financial performance to flounder until they release a better monetized product.
Facebook’s Financial Performance Will Be Uneven
Markets hate uncertainty and punish it with lower stock prices. Without a great monetized product, their earnings will fluctuate. Markets hate fluctuations.
Facebook made 6.5% less money in Q1 2012 than they did in Q4 2011, and their profits fell 12% year-over-year. Neither of these are disasters. Ad spend is usually higher during the holidays and Facebook is investing more now than last year.
But let’s compare to Google’s growth in 2004. They grew 409% and 234% year-over-year, and grew over 100% each quarter, all because their monetized product is extremely effective.
I think Facebook will continue having these little peaks and dips for a while. Within a few quarters, some investors will decide Facebook is all hype, will dump shares, and the share price will fall.
Facebook’s Potential is Longterm
Facebook’s most valuable asset is their 901 million users. Investing in Facebook is like investing in a bank: you’re betting they can make use of their gigantic holdings in a way that delivers extraordinary returns.
When you buy Facebook stock, you’re betting Facebook will eventually figure out how to make use of this remarkable and unique asset.
Display ads, payments, hardware, and search are all areas where Facebook could apply the data collected from their users to create enormously valuable businesses that threaten Google, Amazon, and Apple. Learn about these scenarios here, here, and here.
When Will I Buy Facebook Stock?
The “when to buy” question is often an exercise in gambling. Maybe Facebook will never again sink to its $38 opening price. Or maybe, as the world’s foremost expert in valuation says, it’s priced appropriately and won’t pop much. Who knows.
My thesis is it’ll pop a bit, will hang out rather high for a few quarters, and then sink. That’s when I’ll buy.
Or, Facebook will announce a blockbuster monetized product, or evidence the internet is consolidating on their platform. That’s when I’ll buy.
Until then, my prediction is the market will get fed up with watching Zuck & Co. figure out how to effectively monetize their users and the stock will take a beating.
Of course, predicting this kind of thing is begging for trouble. If digital marketing spend actually doubles in the next 4 years, Facebook just has to tread water to increase revenues. So maybe it’ll be me taking a beating, both from myself and from my readers, for being so gloriously wrong.
lawyer wife told me to say this: I am not an investment advisor and you should not treat this post as investment advice.
Facebooking It, Part 1: You Know What’s Cool? Owning The Internet.
In light of Facebook’s impending IPO, DVWLR is running a series on Facebook called Facebooking It.
There is a non-zero possibility that in 5 years, Facebook will be the internet. That possibility goes up as the percentage of the internet Facebook subsumes decreases. Think of it like this (numbers just for illustration)
Scott Galloway, the CEO of L2 Think Tank, Professor at NYU Stern, and generally impressive guy, has a means of explaining why he’ll buy shares of Facebook, regardless of its initial valuation, that I’ll adapt here with a few of my own tweaks.
If one company could privatize the internet (own all the ads, e-commerce, cloud services, streaming servers, etc), how much would it be worth? That’s pretty hard to estimate, so let’s attack it through a back-of-a-wet-napkin calculation.
Is the entire internet worth more than Google? Yes.
How much more? I dunno. 40 times?
Okay, so if Google’s worth $200 billion, then the internet is worth roughly $8 trillion, give or take a few trillion.
Right now, internet users spend 16% of their time on Facebook. 3 years ago, that was 1%.
Assumption time! Let’s assume that in the next 3 years:
1) They keep growing rapidly such that people will spend 50% of their time on Facebook
2) They introduce an fCommerce platform that allows people to Pay With Facebook (on both Facebook.com and on other sites)
3) They start serving ads outside of Facebook.com, using your Facebook data to target people.
4) They convince a massive number of companies establish rich Facebook pages, which include full product listings, fCommerce stores, food menus, and so forth.
5) They create a Search function that finds the content of these companies’ pages.
To be clear: these are not crazy assumptions. In fact, the main question is the timetable.
Remember that $8 trillion value of the internet? If Facebook can achieve the above, they’ll have entered most of the major markets that create value online. And they’ll have people spending half their time in one place.
In the long run, that’s valuable. How valuable? 20x more valuable than the most valuable business ever created.
What if they screw it up? What if they only achieve 20% of that potential? That’s still a $1.6 Trillion company. What if lots of things go wrong and they only get 5%? They’re a $400 Billion company — roughly the same as Apple.
This makes their current $100 billion valuation seem downright dainty.
And this is why Professor Galloway, and I, will buy, baby, buy on Day 1 of the Facebook IPO.
A note for all you nit-picky folks: of course this is ham-handed. Of course this doesn’t account for major revenue drivers like big data or small revenue sources like mobile movie ticket purchases and OpenTable-like systems. Of course the letters NPV don’t appear here. This is a broad strokes argument that makes the point that Facebook is positioned to take over the internet as we know it. Details aside, that’s a big deal.