Facebook staff silent on stock flotation

For a company that is dramatically upending business strategies and social relationships around the world, Facebook made a surprisingly modest debut on the Nasdaq as a sky-high valuation and trading glitches capped the stock’s rise.

Staff at Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin were reluctant to press the “like” button when approached to discuss the company’s much-hyped flotation.

Workers emerging from Facebook’s offices on Hanover Quay at lunchtime yesterday were like the building itself when it came to talking about their employer.

A bit nondescript — a fact underscored by the absence of a contact number or address for the firm on its own website.

It might be the picturesque view looking out over the Grand Canal Dock that had them smiling seconds earlier. That or the fact many of them were likely to be considerably wealthier by the close of business.

But Facebook staff sported glum expressions when informed the Irish Examiner was interested in sharing their comments. Time and time again, the IT crowd offered a “no comment”.

It is estimated 135 of more than 400 staff based at Hanover Quay have shares in Facebook worth in excess of €100,000.

In late trading, Facebook shares were only a few cents above the company’s initial public offering price of $38 (€29.75), after opening 11% higher, rapidly heading south to touch their initial price and then rebounding.

Facebook had priced its IPO at the top end of its target range and increased the size of the offering, becoming the first US company to go public with a valuation greater than $100bn.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 28, who retains voting control and whose personal net worth is now about $20bn, marked the moment at the company’s Silicon Valley campus by symbolically ringing the opening bell for trading.

Outside of Nasdaq headquarters in New York, crowds gathered, even as exchange officials struggled to sort out technical problems related to the huge volume of orders, which delayed the start of trading and left investors guessing whether their orders had been executed.

Facebook set a new trading volume record, with over 515m shares changing hands.

Assuming the underwriters exercise a greenshoe option as expected, Facebook’s IPO is set to raise $18bn, the second-largest amount in US history, and by far the largest ever for a US internet firm.

— Additional reporting by Reuters


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