2 days, 2 IPOs: When will Facebook take the plunge?

Even as Michael Kors and Zynga go public, all eyes are on a bigger offering.

By The Fiscal Times Dec 16, 2011 2:54PM

By Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

The last two days have seen the much-anticipated IPOs of two companies, Michael Kors Holdings (KORS) and Zynga (ZNGA), but an even larger one looms on the horizon -- Facebook.

Fashion design franchise Michael Kors made its debut Thursday after being priced late Wednesday night. So far, so good: The company’s ability to boost sales in the midst of a sluggish economy impressed investors. The stock had a solid first-day pop of 21% and closed at $24.20 a share, well above its $20 IPO price.

But the Kors deal was overshadowed by speculation surrounding online gaming company Zynga (ZNGA), which finally priced its IPO after the market close Thursday. Underwriters didn't price the stock at $12 a share as had been rumored -- a level that would have been above the forecast range -- but rather at $10, at the top of end of the range. That still gives Zynga, which derives a chunk of its revenue from the sale of intangible goods used in online games, a hefty market capitalization of $7 billion.

The bumps along the road -- including the SEC’s demand that Zynga restate its earnings and adopt more conventional accounting methods -- may have been a blessing in disguise. They have meant that the company made its debut during a relative lull in what has otherwise been a stormy year for global financial markets. Even so, Zynga didn’t receive a particularly warm welcome on Wall Street. In its trading debut Thursday morning, Zynga’s stock opened at $11 before sliding to $9.50, then settling in back around $10.

Zynga is the largest internet startup to go public since the blockbuster Google IPO way back in 2004. But just as Kors was overshadowed by Zynga, so the gaming company, in turn, is likely to see the spotlight move very rapidly to Facebook, and the nonstop speculation about just when the social network will go public.

Certainly, Facebook's financial strength and business model are likely to leave both Kors and Zynga in the dust. According to Gawker, which says it obtained information from a source "with knowledge of Facebook’s finances," the company is debt-free, has an astonishing $3.5 billion in cash and is on track to earn close to $1 billion in profits this year -- double what it did last year.

So, the questions lingering after this week's IPOs are familiar ones. When will Facebook take the plunge? And will that deal have broad coattails, enabling other Silicon Valley tech startups to take advantage of the buzz to go public in their turn?

That's what venture capitalists are hoping for, after years in which only a handful of their portfolio companies have managed to make it through the narrow gate that leads to a stock market listing. Facebook, they figure, is the best hope for them to break the jinx and deliver some solid returns to increasingly irritable and impatient institutional investors. "Hail Facebook!" one such venture investor exclaimed -- anonymously -- in a just-released forecast of what 2012 holds in store for the venture industry. "Long live Facebook!"

Dec 16, 2011 5:36PM
If facebook waits any longer it will miss the boat. We are at the top of a decades of stock market bubble. These are bubble prices and it is still a good time for an IPO. When the Great Depression hits, these prices may not come back for decades. Google for "Have we seen the bottom in stocks" to understand the irrational exuberance in stock prices.
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