May 21, 2012
Everyone is trying to figure out what's going to happen after the biggest IPO of all time. This thing has taken on a life of its own with the whole of financial punditry trying to find their unique take on it. While I like Facebook (NYSE:FB) and what it represents I’m also terribly cautious. So I’m taking a wait and see attitude on whether they can adjust to the pressures of being a public company and execute.
And a pretty richly valued one at that.
I’m not alone in this. Having spoken to a number of my people in my Rolodex recently I’ve heard variations on the theme that Facebook is 1) too expensive and 2) not Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). Of course, at some point in the past even Google wasn’t Google. And that’s the bet one is making when they decide to buy the stock in these early post-IPO days.
There are so many great investment opportunities here in Southeast Asia, companies that have cash flow, trading at low multiples and paying hefty dividends I have to concur with a colleague from Japan who couldn’t see spending that kind of money on a ‘spec stock’ that may never get access to some of the biggest markets in the world. In Vietnam, for example, there are restrictions on people gathering together freely which could easily be used to hamper social networking growth. The longer the Facebook embargo goes on in China, the more entrenched the current players in the country are.
500-700 million users is nice but a company like Tencent or Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) is closing in on those numbers already at 400+ million. Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is targeting 400 million user base on Tencent’s network.
For some people Facebook represents a difficult company to value. It’s potential as an applications platform is obvious and from that perspective I would have to think that the guys at Google are quaking in their boots, especially with the lukewarm adoption rates of Google+. But value investors need to be able to quantify value and at this point those numbers just are not there for Facebook.
The same thing can be said for Asian the analogues to Facebook like Sina. At some point potential has to turn into revenue. Even cash cow Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) is having trouble figuring out how to grow beyond its core ad revenue model but they are certainly game at trying, having just released a 1000 yuan smartphone to target the entry market in China and build market share for their Baidu Yi platform, itself a forked version of Android. If one of those players does crack the Asian monetization nut on social networking the way LinkedIn seems to have done then I’m sure my colleagues over here will be happy to tell us all about it.