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I mentioned I’d talk about another social media stock NOT to buy. Very simple, it’s Linked In.

Before people start going off on me, let me get something straight. I love LinkedIn’s business model. It provides a great service, possibly more useful than Facebook. Also unlike Facebook, they have premium accounts which people in business will pay for (I’m thinking recruiters and people in HR). While it is not as social or developed as Facebook, it does provide some services and fills a gap that FB lacks.

On the flip side, it is trading at 600x earnings. Yeah. I know with regards to technology companies a lot of people say you have to through out the P/E ratio but when something is trading that high compared to earnings, you have to wonder whether its worth it. While FB is somewhere around 65-70x earnings, LI is 9 to 10 times that. Yikes.

I have this shirt given to me from Pink Sheets from when I was a market maker and used their product. On the back of it in big letters it says “CAVEAT EMPTOR.” So just a quick Latin lesson, it means “Buyer beware.” Here’s a fun cartoon about it found:

Now LinkedIn is a great company, just not at the prices its trading at. When the Price Earnings, Price Book, Price to sales, and Price to Cash Flow ratios are all out of this solar system, I stay away until it comes back to Earth. Still, it’s a company to watch.

I promise to write some things that are uplifting, particularly about something to actually BUY.

Image comes from:
The Bunny System

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OK, so it has been awhile. I apologize, as I was gearing up for Level I of the CFA exam. Afterwards I was in New York visiting people and just got time to write a quick post… to say..

I WAS RIGHT

Back in February, I had estimated Facebook’s value to be about $25 a share. And I thought that was being generous. At the close on 14 June, the shares were at 28.29. I noticed a big drop occurred on the day that the options on Facebook started trading. While options prices derive from the price of the stock, I believe it also works the other way around.

If people start driving up the price of puts (the right to sell a stock at a certain price, think of it like an insurance premium you pay to get some value if your car gets in an accident or a tree lands on your house), then the value of the stock will go down. Likewise, if people crush the price of calls (the right to buy a stock at a certain price, or think of it like reverse insurance, like paying something so you can own a house at a reduced price if the cost soars for whatever reason), then the price of the stock will also go down.

There’s a reason why Warren Buffet doesn’t invest in technology stocks. And while Google and Apple may have crazy valuations. And while Google and Apple may seem sky high, at least they have some steady revenues and aren’t trading at 90x earnings.

Anyway, I mean to write some more posts, including one social media stock that I think is in more danger than Facebook and some global macro opinions. I also am thinking about writing a small opinion (treading carefully) on my CFA experience. I may write about my exam day experience and what I think about the level I material.

It’s my new favorite word in business. With the exception of ear-banging (Hint: Cue to recruiters at job fairs nodding sadly). And I just found out it has its own Wikipedia page.

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve heard but Yahoo is suing Facebook over patent infringement. Which is basically them saying “We came up with the idea of profiles, you just found a better way to use them so we’re suing you.” I don’t know how this happened. But they might as well sue Google for patent infringement also, right? Except they did. 

I don’t like lawyers much for the reasons I don’t like politicians (and I apologize to both set of friends who are involved in either). And we do need both, for one reason or another. But patent law is going insane if its allowing Yahoo to put patents on everything its ever tried and then going back and suing people.

Mark Cuban, whom I love to hate as a Heat fan, wants it to go through. Even though he thinks its insane. A good friend of mine described Yahoo as a fish flopping out of the water waiting to die. I can think of no better comparison.

But this is the world we live in. C’est la vie

A lot of fuss came about when Google+ came to be over the summer. A lot of hype went into this platform, thinking it could rival Facebook. But right now, statistics show people are signing up but not using the service as much as intended. As as shown by this picture, it seems as though the only people using Google+ are Google employees.

Social Media Explained

The world of social media explained with donuts. Notice the last one.

In glancing at the above photo, you notice that there are different sort of “sectors” in social media. Facebook is a purely  social platform for people to connect with their friends. Foursquare, is one I really don’t understand to tell you the truth but it allows people to check in at places. Instagram and Pinterest are very similar in my opinion, with Instagram only serving on mobile devices and having filters to play with pictures. We all know YouTube by this point. LinkedIn is like a professional Facebook. Last FM is self-explanatory (though I would have put Spotify instead of that here).

After going through that, you may notice I skipped Twitter at the top. That’s because I worry about Google+ going the same way as their Buzz platform which was eerily similar to Twitter. In fact my first buzz posting which I put up without reading anything about it was that it looks a lot like twitter. To which I’m pretty sure I got a lot of people ripping on me for that. But the real reason I wrote that is because well, I had no clue what Buzz was supposed to be at that point.

I mention Buzz because it’s another venture that Google started and later shut down. While it wanted to be Twitter, it’s true mission was so that Google could get more information. And recently I read a WSJ article (The Mounting Minuses at Google+) that said that, “… the main financial goal of Google+ is to obtain personal data about users to better target ads to them across all of Google.”

That sounds a little scandalous, doesn’t it? Also in that article it shows a great picture that I will post here:

Average minutes per user on Social Networking sites for January (note: does not apply to mobile apps)

 Google+ even comes below Myspace in average minutes per visitor for the month of January. And everyone thought Myspace was dead! What’s more surprising is how Pinterest has grown, even more than Twitter and Linkedin. While not everyone may agree with Linkedin, it’s purpose is certainly different from Facebook. My dad and uncle would never consider joining Facebook (at least I think for my uncle), but they’re both on Linkedin as they both have professional post-graduate degree and operate in that sector.

Also, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and tumblr are able to connect directly with Facebook. These connections actually increase Facebook’s influence, even respective to their “competitors”. But Google+ is more of a direct competitor to Facebook.

Additionally (non Google employees), how many friends do you have on Facebook and how many connections do you have on Google+? I don’t want to disclose numbers but between Google+, Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook, the lowest number of connections I have is on Google+. Twitter is hard to judge but on both Linkedin and Facebook, I know I can post and have almost 1000 people aware of my post.

This isn’t to say that Google+ is doomed. They just need a better strategy. As I stated before, Facebook can go down. And if they were, wouldn’t it be Google+ to take its place?

A lot of the reports I see going out in the market give Facebook a value of somewhere in between $75 and $100 billion. I realize that Facebook is unique in the marketplace but I think people are forgetting about some of the comparables in the past. Does anyone remember Friendster or Myspace?

Friendster has not had a valuation since 2009 and in 2011 went through some major changes in its services. Originally, the site was known as a social networking site, one of the first I remember ever using but never being that excited about it. The site, at its peak, was valued at $53 million and at one point turning down a $30 million bid from Google. The most recent data I found on the valuation of Friendster has a transaction value of $26.4 million. Since then, the company has turned into more of a social gaming site and focused its attention in Asia. I just find it funny that no one mentions this when valuing Facebook.

Myspace is a different story and one that I feel is much more important to mention. First of all, at one point someone posted that Myspace at one point had a valuation of $65 billion! That sounds scarily close to Facebok’s valuation. While the posting itself admits this was based on a per user basis coming of Facebook’s valuation and suggests that $5 billion is more acceptable, it did invite that idea. If you want to look at a history of Myspace’s valuation, look here: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/06/as-myspace-sells-for-35-million-a-history-of-the-networks-valuation/241224/. The most important thing to note is that in June 2011, Newscorp sold 90-95% of its stake in Myspace for $35 million, six percent of what it purchased it at. This gives me a company valuation of around $40 million. The other comparison I want to allude to Myspace has to do with Facebook’s new Timeline. Critics of the new Timeline have said it looks way to much like Myspace. Given these criticisms, shouldn’t the market be wary of these concerns?

While I make a lot of criticisms, it is not to say I do not like Facebook. I think it’s a great social networking platform. They have brought people together in a way that hasn’t been done by anyone else in the social networking space. I wouldn’t be communicating with soccer fans talking trash about Real Madrid (as I’m a Barcelona fan) every time El Clásico comes up. I would not be able to share information with people I know that are completely on the other side of the world in a quick and easy manner. I just think that the market isn’t taking into account the failed social networks in the past.

So basically, I have come up with a ‘back of the envelope valuation’ of Facebook. I have not done a discounted cash flow valuation but rather, I just wanted to take the enterprise values of the street, a well-known NYU professor, Aswath Damodoran, and the two companies mentioned previously. I basically weighted the outcomes of Facebook going the way of Myspace and Friendster each at 10%. I believe that given what has happened in the past, this is not entirely inappropriate and in reality, I think putting it higher would be more correct but since this method of valuation is not the most proper, I think 10% is ok to use. For the other 80%, I have split it evenly between Professor Damodoran’s valuation (see here: http://aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com/2012/02/ipo-of-decade-my-valuation-of-facebook.html) of $70.9 billion and the street’s valuation of $87.5 billion (87.5 being the midpoint between 75 and 100). When I calculate the value using these weighted averages, I get a value closer to $63.4 billion. Following Damodoran’s process, I subtracted debt from the Enterprise Value and added cash to come up with an equity value. After that, I subtracted the option value and came up with a net equity value of about $60 billion. Dividing this by the number of shares mentioned in their filing, this comes up with a value of about $25.69. Again, I want to stress that this isn’t a properly done valuation. But if Facebook is going to be priced at around $30.66 or $41.37 (based on a $75 billion and $100 billion valuation, respectively), the price is just too high. I am not saying the company won’t succeed, but from a value standpoint, it just may be too pricey.

I’m not after Zuckerberg or anything. I just think that instead of his potential $28.4 billion stake in Facebook, it should be more around $20 billion. For a link to my quick math, look here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Av2Mf-4zrZ4CdHNEWTVYODU3cVh1cGp3emVmVGU4c0E