Social Media: You Know You’re In a Bubble When…

Social media is all the rage and is changing the world. Correct? But of course.

Any marketing initiative by self-respecting entities incorporates a significant social media component. Also true. How should investors play this hot new trend?


How interesting that the Wall Street Journal’s front page story this morning addresses issues in this space by writing, Investors Miss Web IPO Payoff. Perhaps the WSJ was prompted to address this “deflating” story by a harder hitting commentary posted a few days ago by The Economic Warrior, Barry J. Dyke.

Dyke, author of a recently released book, The Pirates of Manhattan II, pulls no punches in pointing out the flow of bubbly.

Barry James Dyke, author of The Pirates of Manhattan II: Highway to Serfdom concludes that social media initial public offerings (IPOs) are the latest bubble brought to you by Wall Street and connected executives.

The author comments, “Like the high-tech and subprime mortgage bubbles, social media new share issues—IPOs—have the ingredients for another financial bubble. With sleight of hand media coverage, perennial false optimism and truckloads of hype, Wall Street continues to dump questionable companies onto an unsophisticated public.

Facebook (FB) is the poster child for pump and dump. The company came out at $38 a share on May 18th, went to $42 and by June 5th Facebook trades at $25.87.  (Facebook closed yesterday at $31.49…LD) Insiders and institutional investors pocketed a cool $16 billion payday and bankers pocketed $150 million in fees—while investors lost 32% of their investment in three weeks. It is a circus brought to you by Wall Street and connected insiders, and the circus has already left town.”

Some Facebook insiders sold big chunks of ahead of the IPO. Sean Parker sold 3.6 million shares in a private transaction on March 31. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase [which just lost $2 billion in the “London Whale” derivatives trade] raised $16 billion for Facebook.

Other recent initial public offerings (IPOs) contribute to bubble investing—where shaky companies with questionable business models are sold to the public. Zynga, the company that supplies Facebook with games is down 38% from is December 2011 IPO. Groupon, the daily deals website, and Pandora, the streaming music company, are down 41% and 34% respectively from their recent IPOs. Ren-Ren, the Chinese Facebook is down 67% from its May 2011 IPO. Zipcar, Inc.—the car sharing network is another bonehead IPO. In April 2011 Zipcar was $25.79 a share, by June 5th it is $9.10 a share, which means the company lost more than 60% of its value. [LinkedIn, the professional marketing website—appears to be the exception to the bubble].

“Facebook valuations were insane,” claims Dyke. “Bankers were valuing the company 100 times earnings while a company like Apple is only 13 times earnings. “This is Monopoly money and Facebook is Boardwalk. Insiders and early investors made a fortune, while consumers are fleeced like sheep.”

The author continues, “What makes Facebook an incredible fleece is that the company issued two classes of stock. After the May IPO, founder Mark Zuckerberg owned 18 percent of the company but owned 57 percent of the voting shares—putting him in total control of the company. Two types of shares is a way insiders vacuum money from the public while keeping control in private hands. Zuckerberg was able to buy Instagram—the photo sharing company for $1 billion two weeks prior to the IPO without board approval. It is insane.”

Facebook is not alone in this dual class ownership—which favors family and founders. The New York Times and The Washington Post (whose CEO Don Graham is on the board of Facebook), also have dual class shares—where families and founders retain control. Google, LinkedIn, Groupon, Yelp and Zynga have this ownership structure as well.

“Banks cannot manage their own finances or share price, but they are continuing to dump over-hyped stocks onto the public. UBS, Citigroup, Citadel and Knight Capital—have combined underwriting losses of $100 million on Facebook; investors have lost over $10 billion in three weeks. This type of behavior is reminiscent of 1929 before the stock market crashed. And with the imminent failure European Union brought to you by Europe’s central bankers and the euro; the world could be 1931 before you know it. Woe is us.”

Thanks to the regular reader who had brought this story to my attention. I am not an individual stock picker per se but with a wide array of social media IPOs down 17% to 67%, the evidence of a bubble in this space is overwhelming.

For investors interested in the social media space, I am compelled to write emphatically. . . CAVEAT EMPTOR!!

About Larry Doyle 522 Articles

Larry Doyle embarked on his Wall Street career in 1983 as a mortgage-backed securities trader for The First Boston Corporation. He was involved in the growth and development of the secondary mortgage market from its near infancy.

After close to 7 years at First Boston, Larry joined Bear Stearns in early 1990 as a mortgage trader. In 1993, Larry was named a Senior Managing Director at the firm. He left Bear to join Union Bank of Switzerland in late 1996 as Head of Mortgage Trading.

In 1998, after 15 years of trading and precipitated by Swiss Bank’s takeover of UBS, Larry moved from trading to sales as a senior salesperson at Bank of America. His move into sales led him to the role as National Sales Manager for Securitized Products at JP Morgan Chase in 2000. He was integrally involved in developing the department, hiring 40 salespeople, and generating $300 million in sales revenue. He left JP Morgan in 2006.

Throughout his career, Larry eagerly engaged clients and colleagues. He has mentored dozens of junior colleagues, recruited at a number of colleges and universities, and interviewed hundreds. He has also had extensive public speaking experience. Additionally, Larry served as Chair of the Mortgage Trading Committee for the Public Securities Association (PSA) in the mid-90s.

Larry graduated Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1983 from the College of the Holy Cross.

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