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Facebook's future still faces doubts despite its bargain-basement price

WASHINGTON -- Facebook shares have lost nearly half their value since a highly-touted public offering in May, but it's still not a bargain for some.

Facebook in the past week dropped below US$20 a share for the first time since its US$38 offering price in May. On Friday, the stock rebounded five percent to US$21.09 but remains down a hefty 44.5 percent.

There is some fear that shares could take another hit in mid-August after the expiration of a “lockup,” a 90-day period after the IPO during which insiders are barred from selling.

Michael Comeau of the financial website Minyanville says 268 million shares could come onto the market, in addition to the 460 million that are already floated. And more will become available later this year.

“I'm fixated on the 268 million shares that hit in two weeks,” he said. “Will there be enough buyers to satisfy the new supply?”

Comeau said analyst full-year earnings estimates on Facebook “are actually coming down” from 51 cents per share to 49 cents.

“Declining earnings estimates are usually a negative indicator for momentum stocks,” he added.

Facebook underwhelmed the market in July when it reported its first earnings as a public company, barely meeting estimates for earnings per share and delivering disappointing revenue growth.

The results showed growth for Facebook in overall revenue, operating profits and the number of users — which increased to 955 million by the end of the quarter.

But the company indicated in a regulatory filing that as many as 83 million accounts may come from dubious sources — duplicate accounts, pages for pets and those designed to send spam.

Trip Chowdhry at Global Equities Research, who has consistently said Facebook was overpriced, said the company may be a victim of its own success.

“Everybody's on Facebook. Your parents are on Facebook. Your neighbors are on Facebook,” he said.

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