Facebook's Flop: Why Stock's Early Slump May Not Matter
CNBC Senior Economics Reporter
While Facebook has already gone down in history as one of the great initial public offering flops, history also shows that the social media IPO dog could eventually hunt.
Facebook is a rare failure among IPOs and, especially, large IPOs. On average, they trade up by 20 percent on day 1, according to Jay Ritter of the University of Florida, a leading expert on IPO performance.
That compares with Facebook’s flat performance on Day 1 and near-11 percent decline on Day 2. Only one in four of all IPOs start flat to down, putting Facebook in a unique group of losers.
CNBC asked Ritter to run some numbers: How do IPOs perform six-months out based on how well they come out of the chute?
The initial conclusion is not promising for Facebook shareholders. IPOs that close down on Day 2 return 3.9 percent to shareholders after 6 months, underperforming the market for similar sized companies by 2.7 percent.
IPOs that pop out of the chute return 8.1 percent, beating other companies by 2.5 percent.
But CNBC asked Ritter to go further and look at the numbers based on company size, since his earlier work showed differences in overall IPO performance based on total revenue. Ritter came back with a bit of hope for retail investors who bought Facebook.
It appears that nearly all the underperformance of the IPO flops comes from small companies or those with less than $100 million in revenue. This group of smaller IPOs that closed down on Day 2 lags the broader market by 5.9 percent after six months. A small company that is born healthy stays healthy and beats the market by 1.9 percent on average.
But when it comes to larger companies, those with more than $100 million in sales, the data surprisingly shows it’s better to fail early on.
Large IPOs that trade down on Day 2 outperform the market by 8.1percent after six months. Those that do well on Day 2 outperform the market by only 2.5 percent.
The reasons for this aren’t exactly clear to Ritter. He cautions that the data set, even though it runs from 1990 to 2010, contains only a limited number of large company IPO flops. It makes him wary of saying that it’s good to flop.
But Ritter does feel comfortable saying that, at least on initial examination, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between the early performance of a large IPO and the returns 6-months later.
”Maybe FB is saved,” Ritter wrote in an email. “For big company IPOs, what happens in the first two days doesn’t predict what happens over the next six months.”