Have Facebook shares — the offering that markets apparently love to hate — finally sunk low enough to entice skeptical investors?
A perfect storm of a botched initial public offering, investors filing suit against its listing venue and questions about its business strategy have contributed to Facebook turning into the market's whipping post.
Languishing far below its initial offering price at $45, the stock currently tumbled this week to a new post-IPO low near $18 per share . (Read more:Facebook IPO Fiasco: 10 Things Underwriters Got Wrong)
Still, at least a handful of analysts think the social networking giant could be a bargain at current levels, especially if new business initiatives go its way. As a result, a few bulls are starting to separate themselves from the plethora of bears that have mauled Facebook’s stock.
This past week, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said the embattled social network was laying the foundation for a revitalization of its investment prospects. Market speculation is heralding a new “want” button that — along with Facebook’s ubiquitous “like” function — will allow the social network to get a sense of what users want to buy.
“Ultimately, we think this is a great time to buy Facebook,” Munster said. He echoed a few other analysts who told CNBC this week that Facebook is more of a long-term hold than a short-term play that will reap big returns in the short-run.
Facebook is “a company that is going in the right direction,” Nick Carlson, Business Insider’s deputy editor and an ex-associate at Merrill Lynch, told CNBC last week. He said the company’s efforts to generate revenue from mobile advertising are starting to bear fruit, and put Facebook in a position to profit from one of the technology world’s hottest growth areas.
The social network is “extremely well-positioned” to make money off smartphones, Carlson added. Despite its swooning stock price, he said, Facebook’s mobile ad unit is “already performing really well. It’s taken off right away.”
Making Facebook’s woes all the more glaring, the stocks of competitors such as Pandora Media and LinkedIn have become the gold standard of social networking stocks. Judging by the shares’ continued swoon, the wrath of fickle investors has yet to let up. (Read more: LinkedIn CEO: We're Not Like Other Social Networks)
All of which suggest that not everyone is ready to jump on the Facebook bandwagon yet. Market participants said there are real question marks surrounding the social network’s mobile strategy. Other analysts have been underwhelmed by the leadership of CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“I don't think that $20, $19, $18, almost any price is viable until we get more clarity on the company's business model,” said Paul Meeks, director of institutional investing at Saturna Capital, which has about $4 billion in assets under management. “You frankly can't value it until you get a sense as to how they're going to make money consistently putting ads on smartphones.”