After months of preparation, Facebook is facing what’s widely expected to be the week of its initial public offering. The company hasn’t announced anything resembling official timing yet, but odds seem high, given that it wrapped up its road show in time for a debut date — May 18 — that’s been in the rumor mill since Facebook filed its paperwork.
There has been some hedging about that date since, with reports that the social network could begin trading on the 17th or next week. But most reports citing unnamed sources said to be close to the situation have pegged this week as the one to watch.
According to Reuters, the company is set to close its books Tuesday and price its shares on Thursday for a Friday debut.
So, how does Facebook look after a week on the road? The naysayers are certainly coming out of the woodwork, highlighting problems with the company’s future plans that range from the way it handles privacy to the way it doesn’t handle mobile users.
Most of the chatter is focused on whether Facebook really has a sustainable business model moving forward. There have been some serious flags raised, by Facebook’s own admission, about how the company is managing the shift to mobile. This goes beyond Facebook saying that it essentially has no mobile strategy in the requisite “sky-is-falling” risks section of its S-1. (All companies sound scary based on their risks — Zynga, for example, notes that it is located near an earthquake fault zone.)
Potential Facebook investors probably cringed when reading comScore’s latest report, which indicated that mobile Facebook users spend way more time with the mobile site than on the desktop. That means that Facebook is losing money, since it doesn’t run its display ads on its mobile site.
Analysts have also raised questions about chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and whether he has the, ahem, maturity to run a company. Zuckerberg will have 57 percent of voting shares after the initial public offering, meaning that the company is essentially his to control. The young executive — who turned 28 on Monday — didn’t endear himself to staunch business types when he showed up at the Facebook road show in his signature hoodie. At least one analyst, Michael Pachter of Wedbush, told Bloomberg that Zuckerberg’s wardrobe was a “mark of immaturity.”
Zuckerberg’s casual style and unorthodox adoption of the “hacker way,” is partly what has made Facebook so successful. The hoodie is part of his brand, as The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor points out, and represents the co-founder’s philosophy toward business.
Chances are that Facebook shares will spike quickly when they hit the market, given all the hype surrounding the IPO. The question is whether its stock will follow in the footsteps of tech giants like Google or into the hazardous tech-startup path of companies like Groupon.
(Post Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors.)