Posts tagged ‘Mark Zuckerberg’

The $100 Billion Facebook Man

Source: Photobucket

If you don’t pay close enough attention, you may miss the Facebook initial public offering (IPO) in the blink of an eye. Since computer programming or Botox has frozen Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s face into a wide-eyed, blink-free state, you may have bought yourself a little more time to buy shares in this imminent IPO, which is estimated to value the company at upwards of $100 billion.

We don’t know a lot of details about the financial health of Facebook right now, but what we do know is that this snot-nosed, 27-year-old Mark Zuckerberg has created one of the most powerful companies on this planet and his estimated net worth is currently around $17 billion. Not bad for a college drop-out who started Facebook in 2004 as a freshman at Harvard University. Hmmm, maybe I should have dropped out of college like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, and I too could have become a billionaire? OK, maybe not, but sometimes living in dreamland can be fun.

Speaking of dreams, Zuckerberg has a dream of connecting the whole world, and with more than 800 million-plus Facebook users, he is well on his way. If Facebook users made their own own country, it would be #3 behind only China and India – I’ll check back in a few years to see if Facebook can climb to the top position.

The Pre-IPO Interview

Charlie Rose recently ditched the tie and headed to Silicon Valley to conduct an interview at Facebook headquarters with Mark Zuckerberg and his Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. If you fast forward to MINUTE 9:30 you can listen to the official Facebook IPO response:

 
Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Hype Machine

The hype surrounding the Facebook IPO is palpable and feels a lot like the Google Inc. (GOOG) IPO in 2004, but that capital raising event only resulted in proceeds of $1.9 billion for Google. The recent chatter surrounding the pending Facebook IPO places the value to be raised  closer to $10 billion. Partial offerings seem to be the trend du jour in the social media IPO world, where companies like LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD), Groupon Inc. (GRPN), and Zillow Inc. (Z) all sold just a sliver of their shares to the public in order to create artificial scarcity, thereby pumping up short-term demand for their respective stocks. These companies trade at or above their initial offering price, but significantly below the early investor mouth-frothing spikes in share prices near the time of the IPOs. Facebook appears to be using the same playbook to build up hype for its eventual offering.

Even at an estimated value of $100 billion, Facebook still has some wood to chop if wants to pass Google (about $185 billion in value) and Apple Inc’s (AAPL) approximate $415 billion, but Zuckerberg is no stranger to ambition. When Facebook unveils its inevitable IPO prospectus in the not too distant future, we will have a better idea of whether Facebook and the 2010 Time magazine Person of the Year deserve all the mega-billion dollar accolades, or will an IPO feeding frenzy bring tears to those investors’ eyes that are not privileged enough to receive IPO allocated shares? Regardless of your faith or skepticism, we’re likely to find out the answer to these critical questions in a blink of an eye.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, AGN, AAPL, GOOG but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in Facebook, MSFT, LNKD, GRPN, Z, TWX, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

January 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm 4 comments

Bove on Goldman-Facebook Deal: Hug the Public!

In a recent research report titled, Has Goldman Learned Anything?, esteemed Rochdale Research analyst Richard Bove chimed in about the recent controversy surrounding the failed U.S. private offering of Facebook shares by Goldman Sachs (GS) to the bank’s wealthiest clients. In the note, Bove states the following:

“The company is embroiled in a ‘headline’ controversy surrounding its handling of a Facebook offering which implies that Goldman does not understand the public’s interest at all.”

 

Bove goes onto add:

“I fear that this company may not yet understand that those actions that do not appear to be in the public’s interest can, in fact, harm the company.”

 

I’m having a real difficult time understanding how Goldman privately raising funds for a private company has anything to do with the public? Am I wrong, or don’t millions of private companies raise capital every year without getting approval from Mr. Joe and Mrs. Josephine Public? What exactly does Bove want Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein to say to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg?

“Oh hello Mr. Zuckerberg, this is Lloyd Blankfein calling from Goldman Sachs, and if I understand it correctly, you are interested in raising $1.5 billion for your company. I know you are arguably the greatest internet brand on this planet, but unfortunately I do not think we can help you because I believe the broader public may not be happy with their lack of ability to participate in the offering. If you don’t have Morgan Stanley’s or JP Morgan’s phone number, just let me know because perhaps they can assist you. Have a great day!”

 

Come on…Goldman Sachs is not a charitable organization with a mission to make the world a better place – they are one of thousands of publicly traded companies attempting to grow profits. Sure, could Goldman have more discreetly pursued this offering without attracting the massive media barrage? Absolutely. But let’s be fair, the buzz around Facebook is deafening and the paparazzi are following Mark Zuckerberg around as closely as Raj Rajaratnam chases insider trading tips. New York Times columnist and reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin (see Too Big to Fail book review) summed it up best when he said, “You take the words Facebook and Goldman Sachs and put them in the same sentence, it becomes a media sensation unto itself. So I think this was bound to happen one way or the other.”

So while I have no reason to cheerlead for Goldman Sachs, and I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons for the investment bank to be crucified, attempting to raise money for a private company is not a felony in my book. I commend Richard Bove’s altruistic intentions in protecting the public from Goldman Sachs’s evil capital raising activities, and I may even contribute to a group hug with the mass investing public. If he catches me on the right day, I may even give CEO Lloyd Blankfein a hug.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in GS, MS, JPM, Facebook, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

January 20, 2011 at 10:50 pm 1 comment

Taking Facebook and Twitter Public

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Valuing high growth companies is similar to answering a typical open-ended question posed to me during business school interviews: “Wade, how many ping pong balls can you fit in an empty 747 airplane?” Obviously, the estimation process is not an exact science, but rather an artistic exercise in which various techniques and strategies may be implemented to form a more educated guess. The same estimation principles apply to the tricky challenge of valuing high growth companies like Facebook and Twitter.

Cash is King

Where does one start? Conceptually, one method used to determine a company’s value is by taking the present value of all future cash flows. For growth companies, earnings and cash flows can vary dramatically and small changes in assumptions (i.e., revenue growth rates, profit margins, discount rates, taxes, etc.) can lead to drastically different valuations.  As I have mentioned in the past, cash flow analysis is a great way to value companies across a broad array of industries – excluding financial companies (see previous article on cash flow investing).

Mature companies operating in stable industries may be piling up cash because of limited revenue growth opportunities. Such companies may choose to pay out dividends, buyback stock, or possibly make acquisitions of target competitors. However, for hyper-growth companies earlier in their business life-cycles, (e.g., Facebook and Twitter), discretionary cash flow may be directly reinvested back into the company,  and/or allocated towards numerous growth projects. If these growth companies are not generating a lot of excess free cash flow (cash flow from operations minus capital expenditures), then how does one value such companies? Typically, under a traditional DCF (discounted cash flow model), modest early year cash flows are forecasted  until more substantial cash flows are generated in the future, at which point all cash flows are discounted back to today. This process is philosophically pure, but very imprecise and subject to the manipulation and bias of many inputs.

To combat the multi-year wiggle room of a subjective DCF, I choose to calculate what I call “adjusted free cash flow” (cash flow from operations minus depreciation and amortization). The adjusted free cash flow approach provides a perspective on how much cash a growth company theoretically can generate if it decides to not pursue incremental growth projects in excess of maintenance capital expenditures. In other words, I use depreciation and amortization as a proxy for maintenance CAPEX. I believe cash flow figures are much more reliable in valuing growth companies because such cash-based metrics are less subject to manipulation compared to traditional measures like earnings per share (EPS) and net income from the income statement.

Rationalizing Ratios

Other valuation methods to consider for growth companies*:

  • PE Ratio: The price-earnings ratio indicates how expensive a stock is by comparing its share price to the company’s earnings.
  • PEG Ratio (PE-to-Growth): This metric compares the PE ratio to the earnings growth rate percentage. As a rule of thumb, PEG ratios less than one are considered attractive to some investors, regardless of the absolute PE level.
  • Price-to-Sales: This ratio is less precise in my mind because companies can’t pay investors dividends, buy back stock, or make acquisitions with “sales” – discretionary capital comes from earnings and cash flows.
  • Price-to-Book: Compares the market capitalization (price) of the company with the book value (or equity) component on the balance sheet.
  • EV/EBITDA: Enterprise value (EV) is the total value of the market capitalization plus the value of the debt, divided by EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization). Some investors use EBITDA as an income-based surrogate of cash flow.
  • FCF Yield: One of my personal favorites – you can think of this percentage as an inverted PE ratio that substitutes free cash flow for earnings. Rather than a yield on a bond, this ratio effectively provides investors with a discretionary cash yield on a stock.

*All The ratios above should be reviewed both on an absolute basis and relative basis in conjunction with comparable companies in an industry. Faster growing industries, in general, should carry higher ratio metrics.

Taking Facebook and Twitter Public

Before we can even take a stab at some of these growth company valuations, we need to look at the historical financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement). In the case of Facebook and Twitter, since these companies are private, there are no publically available financial statements to peruse. Private investors are generally left in the dark, limited to public news related to what other early investors have paid for ownership stakes. For example, in July, a Russian internet company paid $100 million for a stake in Facebook, implying a $6.5 billion valuation for the total company.  Twitter recently obtained a $100 million investment from T. Rowe Price and Insight Venture Partners thereby valuing the total company at $1 billion.

Valuing growth companies is quite different than assessing traditional value companies. Because of the earnings and cash flow volatility in growth companies, the short-term financial results can be distorted. I choose to find market leading franchises that can sustain above average growth for longer periods of time (i.e., companies with “long runways”). For a minority of companies that can grow earnings and cash flows sustainably at above-average rates, I will take advantage of the perception surrounding current short-term “expensive” metrics, because eventually growth will convert valuation perception to “cheap.” Google Inc. (GOOG) is a perfect example – what many investors thought was ridiculously expensive, at the $85 per share Initial Public Offering (IPO) price, ended up skyrocketing to over $700 per share and continues to trade near a very respectable level of $500 per share.

The IPO market is heating up and A123 Systems Inc (AONE) is a fresh example. Often these companies are volatile growth companies that require a deep dive into the financial statements. There is no silver bullet, so different valuation metrics and techniques need to be reviewed in order to come up with more reasonable valuation estimates. Valuation measuring is no cakewalk, but I’ll take this challenge over estimating the number of ping pong balls I can fit in an airplane, any day. Valuing growth companies just requires an understanding of how the essential earnings and cash flow metrics integrate with the fundamental dynamics surrounding a particular company and industry. Now that you have graduated with a degree in Growth Company Valuation 101, you are ready to open your boutique investment bank and advise Facebook and Twitter on their IPO price (the fees can be lucrative if you are not under TARP regulations).

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management and client accounts do not have direct long positions AONE, however some Sidoxia client accounts do hold GOOG securities at the time this article was published. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

September 29, 2009 at 2:00 am 1 comment


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