Part way through the Facebook IPO roadshow, scattered reports appeared that Facebook had reduced the earnings guidance it was giving research analysts.This seemed bizarre on a number of levels.
First, I was unaware that Facebook had ever issued any earnings guidance–to research analysts or anyone else.
Earnings guidance is highly material information (meaning that any investor considering an investment decision would want to know it). It represents a future forecast made by the company. Any time any company gives any sort of forecast, stocks move–because the forecast offers a very well informed view of the future by those who have the most up-to-date information about a company’s business.
So if Facebook had issued any sort of guidance, even quietly, this should have been made very public by the company and its bankers–especially because millions of individual investors were thinking of buying the stock.
Second, if Facebook really had “reduced guidance” mid-way through a series of meetings designed for the sole purpose of selling the stock this would have been even more highly material information.
Because such a late change in guidance would mean that Facebook’s business was deteriorating rapidly–between the start of the roadshow and the middle of the roadshow.
Any time a business outlook deteriorates that rapidly, alarm bells start going off on Wall Street, and stocks plunge.
So the report that Facebook had “reduced earnings guidance” during the roadshow just seemed like a typical misunderstanding between Wall Street and the public–something lost in translation between what a reporter was hearing from sources and what actually made it into print.
But now Reuters has just reported the same thing again. Here’s a sentence from a story Reuters just published on the IPO:
Facebook also altered its guidance for research earnings last week, during the road show, a rare and disruptive move.
If this really happened, anyone who placed an order for Facebook who was unaware that 1) Facebook had issued any sort of earnings guidance, and 2) reduced that guidance during the roadshow, has every right to be furious.
Because this would have been highly material information that some investors had and others didn’t–the exact sort of unfair asymmetry that securities laws are designed to prevent.
This seems so obvious that I’m still very sceptical of the report. I’ll now look into it. In the meantime, if anyone knows what Facebook did and didn’t tell analysts, I’d be grateful for your help. ([email protected]).
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