Facebook’s bulls and bears: who’s in, who’s not

Facebook is expected to set the final price for its initial public offering Thursday, after announcing that shares will be somewhere between $34 and $38. At its highest end, that means the company could raise up to $16 billion in the offering.

Facebook has more than its share of bullish investors who seem unfazed that the company has yet to figure out the monetization game.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told Bloomberg that he’d buy the offering at any price. He said Mark Zuckerberg is an astute businessman and reminds him of his former business partner, Steve Jobs.

“I was thankful to have a partnership with Steve Jobs and I see Mark Zuckerberg closer to the combination of us,” he told the news organization. “When he speaks he speaks with a lot of idealism for the users and a lot of good ideas for the product overall.”

Analysts who’ve initiated coverage on Facebook also are optimistic about the company’s chances. Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia has a one-year target price of $46 for Facebook, and a two-year target price of $59. Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter has a $44 price target on the stock.

The social network has clearly seen some indication that it can count on buyers to snap up shares in the high-30s, but it also faces an increasingly vocal set of critics.

The most common question that dogs Facebook is how will it keep its revenue growth on pace with its user growth. The social network is exploding: it has 901 million monthly active users, up from 800 million as recently as February.

But its revenue growth hasn’t been as steady, illustrating that the company doesn’t have a good grip on how to make money from its users. The company makes a little over $4 from each of its global users, and about $9.51 from each of its users in the United States and Canada, TechCrunch noted. General Motors said earlier this week that it will stop paid advertising on the site because it wasn’t getting a good return on its investment — though other car companies, mainly Ford, were quick to say that had more to do with GM’s ads than any problems with the social network.

The fact that so much of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising makes the company a hard read for investors who want to stick around for more than just the first pop from the market debut.

Among those sitting out this round: Warren Buffett. In an interview with Bloomberg, Buffett said he is “agnostic” on the company, because it’s hard to value. Barron’s also ran a big feature advising folks to stay away from the offering, saying it will be overpriced, after looking at the price to earnings ratio.

“If the deal is priced at $35, Facebook will be valued at around 70 times projected 2012 earnings of 50 cents a share and 18 times estimated revenue of $5 billion,” the report said, looking at the low end of the company’s initial pricing range. (With the updated range, that number is closer to 75 times)

By comparison, Google — the company whose IPO Facebook is set to eclipse — “trades for less than 15 times 2012 profit estimates and under six times revenue,” the report noted.

(Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook's board.)

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Barry Ritholz- Facebook’s IPO: What does it mean for you?

Why Facebook ads are different

Facebook to offer as many as 421 million shares in IPO

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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