Friday, May 18, 2012

Internet greets Facebook's IPO price with glee, skepticism

(CNN) -- Friends may be priceless. But 'friending' is worth $38 a share.

That's what Facebook set as the initial price when its stock begins trading on Wall Street Friday morning. That's at the top end of the range analysts were expecting and gives the company a valuation of roughly $104 billion.

That stock price will be the biggest opening ever for a tech company and the third-largest IPO in history -- behind only Visa and Italian utility company ENEL.

Why Facebook won't start trading at the opening bell

On the Web, reactions ran the gamut from deliriously hopeful to harshly negative for the social-media giant's Wall Street potential.

"A $104 billion market capitalization puts Facebook at more than 100 times its trailing earnings," wrote John Constine and Kim-Mai Cutler for technology blog TechCrunch. "That's a big multiple to live up to, and it will likely need to add bold new revenue streams to justify the mammoth valuation."

And it wasn't just the pros weighing in. In fact, it seemed like everyone on the Internet had an opinion.

Business Insider posted a poll (obviously not scientific) asking readers where they thought the $38 stock would be by the end of the day Friday.

In early results, a pessimistic 17 percent said under $35. But the biggest cluster of respondents guessed somewhere between $40-55. (Thirteen percent said $40-45, another 13 percent said $45-50 and, yes, yet another 13 percent said $50-55).

A hopeful 8 percent predicted the stock would skyrocket at otherworldly levels, winding up over $90 a share.

On Twitter, many observers seemed to be rooting against Facebook and its early investors.

"Just me or anyone else really hoping for Facebook stock to take a nose dive and never come back up? I want to watch it drop like a rock," tweeted a user who identified himself as Thomas Bryant from Austin, Texas.

"Facebook just raised $16 billion in its stock offering! Let's all delete our accounts and leave investors high and dry!" tweeted Evil Wylie, the Twitter alter ego of New York author Andrew Shaffer.

On Thursday afternoon, shares were released to big-time brokers who have already agreed to buy them. Ordinary investors have to wait until Friday morning, when shares begin selling publicly

While the market opens at 9:30 am, Facebook's shares won't start trading until at least an hour or so afterward because it's newly listed.

While opinions in the business and tech communities have differed on whether the massive social network is a good investment, analysts have largely been bullish on the stock. There's been heavy demand, leading Facebook on Wednesday to announce it will sell about 25% more shares than it had originally planned, bringing its total to 421 million shares.

At CNN content partner Mashable, a blog that got its start focusing exclusively on social media and saw its popularity rise as Facebook's did, the staff geared up by creating an IPO-inspired playlist on music site Spotify (which, perhaps not coincidentally, is accessible only through a Facebook account).

Making the list? "Mo Money, Mo Problems," by The Notorious B.I.G., "Rich" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs," "Money (That's What I Want) by Barrett Strong and "If I Had $1,000,000" by Barenaked Ladies, among others.

Facebook's new billionaires

Even as tech and financial gurus (self-appointed and otherwise) waited with bated breath for the opening, opining either for or against the financial future of the site some had to face the hard truth: We have no idea what's going to happen.

"Of course, much of this is speculative and depends on the market's response to Facebook," VentureBeat's Jennifer Van Grove wrote in a post quoting analysts about the IPO. "For now, all we can do is wait and watch the clock in anticipation of tomorrow's opening. Tick tock."

CNNMoney and CNN's Brandon Griggs contributed to this report.

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