6 ways to invest in Facebook before the IPO

The secondary markets are closed off, but you can still invest in Facebook before its IPO. How? By investing in its investors.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 10, 2012 6:38PM

By Cody Willard for MarketWatch

 

Facebook recently disallowed the trading of its stock on secondary markets like Sharespost and Liquidnet.  And with the news that it has chosen to continue the tech tradition of listing on the Nasdaq instead of the NYSE, the initial public offering (IPO) is probably less than two months out.

   

MarketWatchWith all the hype and focus on Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition this week, I figured I’d lay out everything I know about the publicly traded companies that have exposure to the Facebook stock already.

 

I’m not advocating you go out and get long on any of these names. I’m just spreading knowledge you might not be aware of, giving you a jumping-off point to do your own digging. That being said, I do think owning Facebook pre-IPO could be a catalyst for these stocks in the short term.

 

You know I’ve been saying Apple (AAPLwill reach $1,000 for a long time now -- certainly before Piper Jaffrey and Topeka Capital Markets made the call the other day. Well, here’s a new prediction: Facebook will hit $200 billion in market cap -- that’s Google’s (GOOG) value -- within two years.

 

It’ll probably fall far from there, but let’s save that for another time.

 

So take a look at these names and decide if they are for you.  The Facebook bubble is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. Intel was a $50 million company when it came public.  Now, IPO’ing at hundreds of billions is the New Normal.  When everyone is that hyped about a company, even minimal exposure can make a stock run.

 

1. Microsoft (MSFT)

Here’s the one you probably definitely know about. Everyone and their mother were howling at what a dumb move Steve Ballmer made buying into Facebook at a $15 billion valuation. Five years and $85 billion later, it looks incredibly prescient. More importantly, Microsoft prevented Google from establishing a relationship with Facebook. Making 7x on $240 million in seven years would put Microsoft in the .000001% of hedge fund managers. Unfortunately, even a roughly $2 billion gain is little more than a rounding error for a company with about $70 billion in revenue. (Microsoft owns and publishes TechBiz, an MSN Money site.)

 

2. Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG)

Here’s one you likely don’t know about. IPG grabbed nearly 5 basis points of Facebook back in 2006 for an advertising agreement -- Mark Zuckerberg & Co. would let them invest if their clients spent $10 million on ads.

 

Best legal kickback of all time.

 

IPG owned about 0.5% till they offloaded half at a $65.5 billion valuation (nobody’s perfect).

 

So if Facebook has almost doubled in value since then, IPG is sitting on about $200 million of unrealized gains. Not bad for a company with a market cap under $5 billion. If Facebook runs to where I think it will, that stake could start to become about 10% of IPG’s current value. It’s already up 43% in the last six months, so a lot of this may be priced in -- but I still think the stock will pop if Facebook hits $200B.

 

3. GSV Capital (GSVC)

GSV is a throwback to the days of shell investment companies -- something between a specialty purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and a mutual fund. The company has no ongoing business line of its own; it just buys stakes in tech companies on the secondary markets. Right now, GSV owns shares of some of the hottest new tech darlings -- Gilt Groupe, Bloom Energy, Silver Spring Networks, Chegg, Dropbox, Zynga (ZNGA) and Twitter. It even has a stake in the platform where you can buy stakes on the secondary market, Sharespost.

 

But its Facebook investment is why most people know of GSV.

 

4. Mail.Ru Group

This one is murky, to say the least. Mail.ru is a Russian Internet company that is a byproduct of Digital Sky Technology, Yuri Milner’s investment firm. DST is one of the savviest Internet investors and kind of the Kevin Bacon of hot Internet stocks. DST bought its stake in Facebook (originally 10% now diluted down to 5%), and then stuffed it into Mail.ru. After some typical upper-crust-Russian corporate drama, most of Mail.ru’s stake was ceded to its parent DST (Facebook’s SEC disclosure says it is no longer a 5% holder). And while they still own shares, I’d rather you wait till Facebook’s IPO than buy this name.

 

5. Tencent Holdings (TCEHY)

The biggest Internet company you’ve never heard of. With a market cap of $52.5 billion, Tencent owns some of the choicest Chinese digital assets. Its crown jewel is QQ, an instant-messaging service with 800 million active users -- the United States has around 300 million people, not all of whom could be considered active.

And as for what we care about, Ten has an indirect stake in Facebook through its ownership interest in Digital Sky Technologies, which is around 10%. More important than the couple hundred million in Facebook shares that translates to is Tencent’s ability to invest alongside DST in the coming round of the tech bubble. And I expect DST’s new billion-dollar fund to be hugely oversubscribed.

 

6 . Naspers Limited (NPSNY)

Here’s one of my favorites that we need to do really serious digging on. Naspers is a South African media behemoth with a market cap of about $21 billion. It’s up about 32% this year, but I’d still look at it for the long term.

 

Like Tencent, its Facebook stake is indirect. But interestingly, Naspers owns huge stakes of both Tencent (34%) and DST (28.7%). DST owns 5.5% of Facebook, which means Naspers has $1.6 billion in shares at a $100B valuation. And it owns a third of Tencent, which owns another 10% of DST, so that’s another $180M for good measure. Throw in part of the value of Tencent’s shares of $15 billion, plus DST’s value (it is rumored to be IPO’ng soon itself), plus a not-insignificant $4.5 billion in revenue, and Naspers looks like a double or triple at first blush.

 

I’d love to hear what all of you think about this name (especially vehement opinions to the contrary), and if you think it looks as outright cheap as I do. If Facebook runs to $200 billion, I think this stock could run right along with it.

 

Cody Willard writes Revolution Investing for MarketWatch and posts the trades from his personal account at TradingWithCody.com. At time of publication, Cody was net long Apple, Google and Microsoft.

 

More at MarketWatch.com:

It’s Spring and time to take profits

IPO investors: Beware the dual-class stock

Balancing your portfolio for spring

7Comments
Apr 10, 2012 8:49PM
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I never joined facebook....

I saw how much time other friends wasted on it....

Apr 11, 2012 2:11AM
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Facebook is all hype, but for some reason, that works in America...for now
Apr 10, 2012 11:56PM
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Only in america can a nerd create a website to pick up girls and become a billionaire.Facebook what a joke sell quick.
Apr 11, 2012 12:00AM
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200 billion same speculators who are in the oil market, face book worthless, oil worth maybe 25$ a barrel way over priced.
Apr 11, 2012 8:00AM
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wait till they shut down the refineries on the east coast, gas , up, up and away, the stock market down, down way down. economy, none, new refineries should have been built when bush talked about it. facebook,????
Apr 11, 2012 12:01AM
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AT least mark can buy his women now make the nerd rich.
Apr 10, 2012 9:38PM
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i hate facebook

 

i also hate apple

 

all the sheep follow these companies..

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