According to sources privy to the deal, Facebook has chosen Morgan Stanley as lead underwriter of their blockbuster IPO. The company plans to file on Wednesday under the ticker symbol FB on the New York Stock Exchange, according to PrivCo. The deal is expected to be priced at $38-$40 a share, giving Facebook an initial valuation of $90-95 billion.
Morgan Stanley won the coveted "left lead" position over Goldman Sachs due in part to Morgan's access to legions of generally less-sophisticated retail clients who are expected to run the stock up from the offering price. Goldman will still command a large piece of the deal, but this is a major win for Morgan Stanley's tech banking team.
In my opinion, pricing the deal in the $38-40 range per share is a stroke of genius. When you're dealing with retail investors (who, let's face it, are the rubes who will bid the stock up), less attention is paid to the overall valuation of the company than is paid to a perceived "low" stock price. LinkedIn priced at $45 and more than doubled on the open.
I think it's safe to say the IPO will be a big winner, and a massive feather in Morgan's cap. It's hard to imagine a scenario where the market for Facebook shares collapses in the early going. Of course, $100 billion is a stratospheric valuation, and if the Facebook IPO does what LinkedIn did on the open, that number is closer to $200 billion. One would think that cooler heads will prevail at some point.
I certainly won't be a buyer, but I'll be an avid observer. A lot of people are going to get rich when the IPO finally bows. Unfortunately, I doubt it'll be any of the rabble who scramble for shares in the aftermarket. Be that as it may, there's going to be some smiling faces at Morgan Stanley no matter what happens.