Facebook’s public offering has its effect on market

After website’s weak introduction in May, other tech companies hold back on IPOs

It’s been a month since Facebook’s IPO fell flat and in that time, the market for initial public offerings has gone cold. Venture capitalists say the fallout from Facebook’s rocky IPO is making technology companies more cautious about going public. Enlarge photo

Richard Drew/Associated Press file photo

It’s been a month since Facebook’s IPO fell flat and in that time, the market for initial public offerings has gone cold. Venture capitalists say the fallout from Facebook’s rocky IPO is making technology companies more cautious about going public.

NEW YORK – It’s been a month since Facebook’s initial public offering fell flat, and in that time, the market for initial public offerings has collapsed.

No company has gone public since May 18, compared with 19 in the same period a year ago. Fourteen offerings have been withdrawn or delayed, according to Dealogic.

There were no public offerings scheduled for the week ending Saturday. Of course, because of the European debt crisis, financial markets haven’t been terribly conducive to IPOs. Still, venture capitalists say the fallout from Facebook’s rocky IPO is making companies – especially those in the technology sector – cautious about going public.

“It pretty much wiped the counter clean for the time being,” says Francis Gaskins, president of researcher IPOdesktop. “It sucked the air out of the room.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Internet industry that captivated the investment world in the late 1990s and went bust as the next decade began had pinned its hopes on Facebook’s stock market debut to signify the beginning of a new era. In Silicon Valley, the IPO had been billed as “the big one,” an Earth-shaking event that would unleash a wave of investment in technology start-ups.

Instead, from the first-day-pop-that-wasn’t to the investor lawsuits and falling share prices that came after, Facebook’s $16 billion initial public offering has resulted in nothing but trepidation among tech entrepreneurs and those who supply their early funding.

“There were a lot of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who really have been waiting for Facebook to go public,” says Sam Hamadeh, the CEO of PrivCo, a research firm that follows privately held companies. “Everybody’s been told just wait till May 18, Facebook is going to pop, everybody will get very excited about it ... and then you have the opportunity to go public this summer with that halo effect.”

That bright, glowing aura never materialized. After pricing at $38 the night before its market debut, Facebook’s stock shot as high as $45 before settling at $38.23 at the end of its first trading day. Since then, the stock dropped as low as $25.52.

Facebook Inc. has joined the ranks of other recently public Internet companies that are trading below their IPO prices. There’s Zynga Inc., whose games are played mainly on Facebook and Pandora Media Inc., the online radio service. Groupon Inc., which offers online deals to subscribers, went public Nov. 4 at $20 and is now trading around $10.

And Friday, May 18, will be remembered as the day Facebook’s much-ballyhooed IPO landed flat on its belly, marred by technical glitches at the Nasdaq Stock Market that delayed the stock’s trading by half an hour. There’s now agreement among investors that Facebook may not be worth as much as Amazon.com, or half as much as Google – not yet at least. The Menlo Park, Calif., company’s stock is down 17 percent since its first day of trading.

Even Morgan Stanley, the highly regarded underwriting bank that ushered the likes of Apple, Netscape and Google into the public markets, has come under fire for its handling of Facebook’s IPO. Critics accuse the bank of offering too many shares at too high a price. They also claim it gave special treatment to its high-end clients.

Now, a host of companies are feeling a different kind of Facebook effect. The social network’s stock has weighed on the stocks of other social media companies. Zynga has seen its stock fall 18 percent since Facebook started trading. And it may have influenced online travel site Kayak Software Inc. to delay its IPO. Though Kayak did not have a set IPO date, it had filed its intention to go public more than a year ago and had been expected to start trading soon. The company said recently that it is waiting for market conditions to get better.

“The mood is pessimistic right now,” Hamadeh says. “But everybody is still holding out hope that the IPO market will recover, that somehow Facebook’s stock will recover.”