Facebook Starts Public Sale of Its Stock

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 3:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Facebook, the world's biggest social media website, started selling stock to the public on Friday, with its initial $38 share price edging above $40 in the first hours of trading.

Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, signaled the start of trading on the Nasdaq exchange in New York by remotely ringing a bell from company headquarters across the continent in California.

The popular social networking site, with 900 million users worldwide, raised about $16 billion from the stock sale. That is one of the biggest stock debuts in U.S. corporate history and rivaled only by financial services company Visa and automaker General Motors. The stock offering drove Facebook's value to at least $104 billion, making it one of the most valuable U.S. companies.

But contrary to some investors' hopes, the stock price did not soar in the first day's trading. The share price stayed in a relatively narrow range, topping $42 at one point, then falling back to the opening $38 level before settling above $40 in mid-afternoon trading.

Zuckerberg, who turned 28 earlier this week, started the popular social networking site just eight years ago in his college dorm room at Harvard. As investors bought shares, they became part owners of the company, but Zuckerberg will still control more than 55 percent of Facebook's voting stock.

Some analysts expect millions of Facebook shares will be purchased in the first hours of trading because of the high demand to own part of such a ubiquitous and recognized product. The stock is being traded under the symbol “FB.”

But others are advising clients to wait and see whether the company can still continue to grow and how much advertising it can sell before buying shares.

Facebook's advertising revenue growth has slowed in recent months, and doubts about its long-term viability were heightened earlier this week when General Motors announced it was pulling its paid advertising off the website.

“The reality is, I think a lot of investors are really going to be very much focused on the short-term financial results, but because the company and its CEO presumably won't be, we think there are going to be ample opportunities for disconnects in the marketplace which could disappoint and frustrate some.”

Facebook has also yet to devise a strategy to attract advertising on mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.

People use Facebook to post photographs and write details about their lives, often reconnecting with long-lost friends and family members.