Sunday, 13 January 2013

Facebook’s mystery announcement looms


In Facebook’s trademark white and blue branding, the invite simply says, “Come and see what we’re building.”

For those who have sunk money into what has so far been a languishing stock amid broader hype over social media companies, the prospect of a mystery is obviously seductive, especially given investors’ current reality. Facebook shares climbed steadily last week on the news, but hovering around $31 (U.S.) on Nasdaq, they are still well below the IPO price of $38.

It is unclear exactly what the Facebook announcement might be, though that has not stopped people from guessing. The firm, like other U.S. technology companies that hold over-hyped press conferences for incrementally improved products, is not immune to theatrical attempts at generating buzz.

But the sense of mystery has clearly improved some sentiment around Facebook, which despite being one of the world’s most visited social media sites has struggled to maintain a positive narrative since its botched IPO in May of last year.

Everything that could have gone wrong for Facebook’s coming out party did: People criticized the IPO price; traders were inconvenienced first by a delay in the day’s trading of Facebook shares, and then by trades not going through properly, filled later at reduced prices; and soon it was alleged that big clients had been tipped off about reduced earnings expectations before smaller investors, prompting a shareholder lawsuit.

Since then, despite improvements in the company’s earnings, there have been residual worries. In particular, Facebook has a mobile problem: Observers are divided on whether the company can continue hauling in revenue as the world increasingly accesses Facebook on mobile devices, where it is harder to earn revenue. In addition, many play Facebook’s games, such as Zynga Inc.’s popular Farmville, on their desktop computers.

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