Once rumors hit last year that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was preparing for a public offering - perhaps the largest tech IPO in history - the non-stop questioning began.
"When's the Facebook IPO coming? When's the Facebook IPO coming?"
Unless you were Mark Zuckerberg, you didn't have a clue. But that sure didn't stop everyone from guessing. Talk about annoying.
Thankfully that mystery's largely been solved.
Based on qualified leaks, the company's set to go public in early May, possibly May 18.
That date might get pushed back a little though, into June, because of Facebook's recent dealmaking. The $1 billion acquisition of Instagram and the $550 million patent purchase from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) will require re-filing some financial documents with the SEC, which takes time.
Long story short, barring any unexpected snafus, Facebook's IPO will hit before summer officially starts. Which leads us to the next most pressing question…
"What is Facebook's IPO Price Going to Be?"
The company's yet to disclose a pricing range in its SEC filings. And the omission has set into motion the world's largest guessing game. Again.
But fear not. I'm here to tell you Facebook's IPO price. Without guessing.
You see, since the terms of the Instagram deal included cash and stock, we can use it to get a rough estimate of Facebook's share price.
The social networking giant reportedly paid $1 billion for the photo-sharing startup. And per Facebook's April 23, SEC filing:
In April 2012, we entered into an agreement to acquire Instagram… for approximately 23 million shares of our common stock and $300 million in cash.
If we subtract the $300 million in cash from the $1 billion purchase price, we get the value Facebook assigned to the 23 million shares. About $700 million.
Do the math ($700 million divided by 23 million shares) and we get a price per share of about $30.50. And a total market capitalization of about $78 billion.
The underwriters, of course, are going to try to jack up that valuation. Why? Because Facebook's stock was recently trading on the secondary market as high as $40 per share. Which works out to a market cap just north of $100 billion.
So the question now becomes is Facebook's IPO actually worth $30.50 per share? Or $40 per share?
The answer? Not to this guy!
Based on the latest profit figures, Facebook would come to market at a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 66 to 111. That's steep!
For comparison, the S&P 500 Index currently trades at a P/E ratio of 15.5. And when search giant, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), went public, it traded at an initial P/E ratio of 79.3.
Sorry folks. Facebook isn't a bigger opportunity - or better company - than Google. We can live without Facebook. Not Google. So in a rational world, Facebook's IPO shouldn't trade at a premium to Google's.
Even if we give Facebook a HUGE benefit of the doubt, and assume it increases profitability by 50% or even 100% in the next year, it's still expensive. It would be debuting at a forward P/E ratio of 33 to 58.
Compare the S&P 500 Index, which currently trades at a forward P/E ratio of 13.8. And when Google went public, it traded at a forward P/E ratio of just 20.6.
Unless you believe in buying high and trying to sell higher to a greater fool, Facebook is going to be anything but a smart investment. Or as Mr. T. likes to say, "I pity the fool!"
Here's one more thing I feel the need to bring to your attention…
CNBC host, Jim Cramer, is urging investors to buy into the Facebook IPO. His reason?
"Facebook has insinuated itself into every particle of human existence in an incredibly fast way, but particularly in the existences of people who are trying to figure out their preferences. That, alone, makes the IPO worth participating in."
Seriously, Jim? Every particle?
There's no rational way to respond to such an irrational statement. Except maybe to say that I know my preferences just fine. And it didn't take Facebook to help me figure it out. I'm not even on Facebook!
Cramer's been one of the best contrarian indicators for me throughout my career. He's the kiss of death for a stock. And his far-out logic on Facebook's IPO only reinforces my convictions.
Bottom line: Like I've said before, if you believe that success in investing boils down to buying low and selling high, then don't buy into the Facebook IPO. To profit from it will require buying high and selling higher… to a fool greater than you.