POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 15, 2012
CHICAGO » Hoping to get in on Facebook's hotly anticipated public stock offering? You'll need Facebook friends at very high levels — or a lot of money.
Most people who like the idea of owning Facebook's stock will have difficulty getting it at the offer price, currently expected at $28 to $35 a share. Unless you know the right people at Facebook, you'll likely need to have a large, active account with one of the big banks or brokerage firms directly involved in the stock sale.
Otherwise, you can take your chances by buying shares after the initial public offering is completed, when Facebook begins trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the ticker symbol "FB." That's likely to happen Friday.
Doing it that way typically means paying much more for the stock, however. And heavy demand skews the early stock price, leaving an investor vulnerable to the risk of a big drop.
Jerome Cleary isn't deterred. One of a legion of Facebook fans, he has never wanted to own a stock as much as he wants to buy this one. Cleary, a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles, says he has already signed up for an account with a discount online brokerage so he'll be ready.
"I know you should buy stock in what you know and like," Cleary says. "I feel that because they have an incredible mass of wealth and such growing popularity, the stock really may pay off."
Facebook Inc.'s IPO is expected to be the largest ever for an Internet company. It's expected to raise as much as $11.8 billion for Facebook and its early investors — far more than the $1.67 billion raised in Google Inc.'s 2004 IPO.
Analysts say there's so much interest in Facebook's stock that some underwriters are closing their books as early as today. This means they won't be taking any orders from potential buyers. The IPO is expected to be completed late Thursday, with shares available for trading Friday.
Scott Sweet, owner of advisory firm IPOBoutique, says the high demand also means that Facebook might raise the per-share price above $35, the high end of the range Facebook currently expects. Facebook and the IPO's lead underwriter, Morgan Stanley, declined to comment.
Facebook and its early investors are selling more than 337 million shares, but those shares are parceled out carefully, away from the public's eyes.
Typically, individuals get to buy no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of shares sold at an IPO's offering price. The vast majority will go to company insiders, institutional investors, the underwriters selected by the company to handle the process and preferred clients of all of them.
If you strike out as an insider, it will still be easy, but expensive, to buy shares on the open market.
Be aware that the price could jump significantly by the time you place your order.