How to play the Facebook IPO
Patience is a virtue, especially when dealing with a highly hyped public offering.
As I explained last week on TheStreet, many of Facebook's risks make it an incredibly attractive long-term investment.
As a mere mortal, however, I realize I cannot simply subscribe to the company's IPO and get shares at the offer price. Instead, I have to duke it out with my fellow common folk as FB opens to the general public later this week in what will most likely be volatile fashion.
While I expect Facebook to be the type of IPO that, by and large, only goes up, I am not willing to buy on day one or even in the first several weeks of the company's public existence. It presents too many risks.
First, the gap up at the open could be astronomical. And, if the stock were to go down as hard as I expect it to go up, I would not be the least bit surprised. This uncertainty keeps me away from 99% of IPOs, particularly the most hyped new issues.
For example, if Mark Zuckerberg takes a page out of Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos' playbook and ramps up spending to position Facebook for long-term opportunity, investors will fret. If this coincides with a possible slowdown in revenue as advertisers catch up with consumer shifts to mobile devices, Facebook's stock could be in for a serious swoon.
I hope things play out as I anticipate. It would represent a gift from above. The entire situation strengthens my long-term bullish resolve with regard to stocks that rely on the emergence of mobile as a lucrative advertising platform. Google (GOOG) and Pandora (P) represent two other stocks to buy for the same or similar reasons.
I will simply buy when it seems like the sky is falling. Slowing revenue at Facebook! Oh no! I can see the headlines now. In fact, we've already seen them as Facebook noted concern over the potential for pressure on revenue as its users continue to access the social network on smartphones and other mobile devices. Generally, when an investor thinks the sky is falling, he or she suffers from an ignorance of history, an inability to vision the future or both.
Five or 10 years ago, the notion that we would even talk about a world where advertisers needed to target prospects on mobile devices sounded a bit crazy.
In 2007, Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs first unveiled iPhone. At the outset, most users simply stared at the screen obsessively while listening to music, watching the occasional video and texting friends and family. Now, many of us practically live on our smartphones for both business and pleasure.
Just as old-guard media companies continue to come around to the notion that they must provide content to their viewers and listeners "wherever they are" and on "whatever device they choose to use," advertisers will have no choice but to take to mobile. They already are, but we sit on the eve of them doing it in droves. When that happens, we'll look back on concerns over slowing revenue at Facebook and it will all seem funny.
I'm confident that bearish investors will misunderstand Facebook as much as they do Amazon. There's a big difference between the two companies though. Because of Jeff Bezos's track record of executing a business model of hyper-growth, sacrificing the near-term to seize long-range opportunity, the bears end up being little more than a vocal minority. They're a peanut gallery that has very little, if any, meaningful impact on the stock price. This will likely not be the case at Facebook.
At the first sign of pressure or any top- or bottom-line weakness, expect bearish traders to have some power. Stories of a hoodie-wearing Mark Zuckerberg not fit to be a CEO and moans that Facebook has no business being worth more than (insert old-guard heritage company here) sell well. And they'll impact the stock. Assuming that happens, I will start buying.
If the stock does not experience any meaningful pullbacks, I will wait for options to come out on it and buy long-dated in-the-money calls, preferably LEAPS.
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