Explaining Southern California's economy

Oh, what a mess this Facebook IPO has become!

Facebook Debuts As Public Company With Initial Public Offering On NASDAQ Exchange

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The Facebook IPO now seems so long ago, now that everyone is complaining about how it was screwed up.

I'm resting up a bit this week and spending some quality time with what I think could be the next big social-media site, Quora. Head on over there and watch me answer some questions. And watch other Quorians do it, too.

But I do need to update everyone on the Facebook IPO mess. And it's a very big mess. You can read the Wall Street Journal's blow-by-blow here, or jump over to Business Insider and read Henry Blodget all but accuse Facebook CFO David Ebersman of violating SEC rules (which is ironic, given that Blodget himself is banned for life from the securities business for breaking the rules). At Reuters, Felix Salmon offers his own analysis — also laying much blame on Ebersman, but pointing to Morgan Stanley lead technology banker Michael Grimes as someone who botched his job.

Circumstantially, it seems what happened — apart from the computer screw-ups by NASDAQ that delayed trading on Friday — is that several of the major banks involved in the Facebook IPO, such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, cut their estimates for Facebook's second-quarter and full 2012 financial performance during the IPO "road show." They were motivated by Ebersman allegedly conveying information to them, as well as by an amended IPO filing with the SEC. 

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Not so Happy Facebook Day for Facebook IPO

Facebook Debuts As Public Company With Initial Public Offering On NASDAQ Exchange

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The share price of newly debuted Facebook stock is seen at the Nasdaq stock market moments after it went public on May 18, 2012. The highly touted IPO for the social network fizzled after some early froth.

Well, that was a disaster. Facebook closed its first day of trading at just above its offering price of $38 per share. Mark Zukerberg did say that it wasn't Facebook's mission to be a public company, after all, and it looks like he got his wish to at least have it not be the company that brought the Everyday Joe, retail investor back into the market.

Two new subplots. First, you can't believe how tense it was to watch the market close, as Facebook got precariously close to "breaking the IPO" by dipping below $38. That would have been a debacle for Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter in the offering. My Twitter feed was on fire for the last half hour of trading with tweets about how Morgan was waging an "epic battle" to hold that $38 line (@TheStalwart and @carney — Joe Weisenthal of Business Insider and John Carney of CNBC, respectively, were all over it). Who knows how much money they spent to buy shares, on trading volume that hit 460 million in a single session, a new record.

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Happy Facebook Day!

Facebook-Stock

Facebook

A good old-fashioned stock certificate, for a company that's anything but.

Facebook finally began trading this morning on the NASDAQ exchange, after some technical glitches prevented the social network from testing its $104-billion market cap and $38 IPO price at 11 a.m. Wall Street Time, as anticipated. The party had to wait until 11:30.

The basic story has two parts. First, there was no big first-day pop — at least not yet, and with just a few hours of trading left on the East Coast, there's every chance that sell orders will be executed late in the day that will push Facebook down to near its IPO price. It won't fall below $38 because Morgan Stanley and the syndicate of investment banks that ran the IPO will provide support at that level.

The stock opened at $42.50, for a reasonable if unspectacular pop, around 13 percent. By contrast, LinkedIn popped 109 percent when it began trading in May of 2011. That performance prompted some market observers to get very, very angry.

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Los Angeles' own Michael Grimes led the Facebook IPO

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The Facebook website is displayed on a laptop computer. The company's $16-billion IPO was led by a California kid who grew up anything but rich.

Talk about a local boy done good! Facebook will begin trading shares tomorrow. The IPO values the company at $104 b-b-billion, which is a mere $4 billion more than many were expecting. The lead underwriter on the deal, Morgan Stanley, has now led most of the big tech IPOs of the past year or so and stands to make around $40 million on the deal. Which doesn't sound like much. But still...

(Think of the lead underwriter as a sort of head financial guide, making it possible for a company to transition from a private to a public existence.)

And whom do we have to thank for all this banking magic? None other than L.A.'s own Michael Grimes. This is from a DealBook profile of Grimes, 46, which appeared a few days back:

From an early age, Mr. Grimes seemed headed for a career in technology. Growing up in East Los Angeles in a modest two-bedroom house with his sister and parents, Mr. Grimes attended the Polytechnic School, a prestigious prep school in Pasadena, Calif. His father, David Grimes, the owner of a mapping and land-surveying business, worked Saturdays to afford his son’s $5,000-a-year tuition.

At the age of 12, Mr. Grimes asked his father for the latest Apple computer, a $2,500 machine that many of his wealthier friends owned. His father made a deal with him. He would buy the machine if his son converted some computer programs his father had developed into Apple’s programming language.

“He did it in one summer,” said David Grimes. “I guess I pushed him in that direction.”

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Do venture capitalists care about more than money?

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I don't really want to do this $10 billion IPO. Really, I don't.

I'm officially arguing with Felix Salmon about venture capitalists. You can read the previous installments here and here. We've got even more fodder for debate now, based on Felix's excellent piece in the latest issue of Wired.

First off, I think he's talking about two things at the same time: 

1. Why IPOs suck for tech companies (Duh, it's the title of the piece!) — and why the IPO model, once so useful, is now broken

2. Why venture capitalists are doing all kinds of things that are borderline despicable when it comes to funding companies and maximizing their greed

I don't entirely disagree with point number one. It's taking companies longer to get to the IPO stage, and it's debatable whether companies that are already quite successful really need to go public. Also, as William Cohan has argued, investment banking has become a Wall Street cartel, with the same big firms — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan et al. — getting to run all the IPOs. The model that Bill Hambrecht developed — the so-called "OpenIPO" model — and used to take Google public in 2004 has fallen by the wayside.

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