The pretense that there’s a “level playing field” for all investors–from the biggest hedge funds to the little guy who checks his or her stock quotes once in a while–is, of course, ridiculous.Even if the playing field actually WERE level–if the information flow were equivalent–the game would still be a comical mismatch. For example, it would be like a weekend flag football team playing against the New York Giants.
But the playing field isn’t level.
In addition to being much faster and better-trained and more experienced than little investors, big investors are also vastly better informed.
Case in point:
The Facebook roadshow.
Yesterday, the Facebook management team spoke to 200 investors at a private lunch in Silicon Valley. Among other things, Mark Zuckerberg was asked about mobile and the company’s purchase of Instagram.
Mobile is a critical issue for Facebook–more and more users are using the service via mobile, and the company’s ability to “monetise” these users is far less than it is on the desktop.
So the company’s answers to these questions are critical.
Facebook’s management isn’t supposed to say anything new or earth-shattering in these meetings. But how management answers tough questions is often telling. One of the reasons investors go to these meetings is that it’s not just the answers that are informative: So is the body language. And it’s also interesting to hear what other smart investors are focused on.
The one-on-one meetings with the biggest institutional investors, meanwhile, are even more revealing. In the intimate atmosphere of a truly private room, there’s a better chance that management will relax and say something very revealing. Especially if they already have relationships with the investors, which they often do. So it’s no surprise that big investors ask for–and get–such meetings.
Now, I realise that there’s no room big enough in the world to house everyone who would want to go to a Facebook roadshow meeting. So, little investors will never get to learn from the body language and phrasing that big institutional investors do.
But how about some transcripts?
Where are the transcripts of all these private meetings with investors that you and I weren’t invited to?
As a potential investor in Facebook, I’d certainly like to see them.
But I can’t. Because the meetings are private.
Meanwhile, ludicrously, everyone still pretends that there’s a level playing field.
(The fact that there obviously isn’t is just one of many reasons the Facebook IPO is “muppet bait.”)