Saturday, May 19, 2012

Not investor demand, but underwriters keep Facebook stock from dropping below IPO price

Curiouser and curiouser; every time Facebook's stock priced edge close to $38, its IPO price, it bounced back, almost like bouncing off a wall. It turns out the stock was bouncing off a wall, in fact: it was bouncing off a wall of underwriters determined to ensure that Facebook would not drop below its IPO price.

According to the Wall Street Journal, every time that Facebook seemed ready to break below $38, the 33 underwriters involved in the Facebook IPO stepped in to make sure that didn't happen.

You didn't need the Wall Street Journal to tell you that. All you had to do was watch the Level II quotes to see millions of bids appear every time Facebook's stock price hit $38.

The underwriters had a lot invested in making sure Facebook's IPO was a success. It was, for Facebook's initial investors and employees. For those thinking the stock would be a huge hit on May 18, 2012, it was not.

Companies going public, as well as the investment bankers who underwrite the offerings want a first-day pop in the share price. After all, those invited to take part in the IPO at the IPO strike price expect payback for their investment. In addition, a disappointing first day doesn't give the "public" much impetus to jump in and buy, obviously.

Since 1995, there have been only six other IPOs aside from Facebook's that raised more than $5 billion; the average first day performance has been a 13 percent gain, according to Dealogic. Facebook's result was a tepid 0.71 percent increase, to $38.27.

If there was any good news, it's that after-hours investors didn't shy away, at least not entirely. In mid-afternoon (PDT) after-hours trading, Facebook was up $0.13 to $38.40.

Still, it was hardly the opening that many expected. The site had 2,261 people estimate the closing price, with the average being $54 a share. However, 26 people were nearly on the money, predicting $38 a share, the IPO strike price.

The Facebook price protection "team" prevented the stock price from plunging below $38 on Day One. Will they be available on Monday, if Facebook stock needs an added boost, or will Facebook drop below its IPO price? We'll see.

The above graph shows Facebook's day on NASDAQ.

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