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Facebook shares plumb new depths

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SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook Inc shares slid below $29 to a new low on Tuesday as nervous investors fled the company’s shares, concerned about the social network’s long-term business prospects and an initial offering price that proved too rich.

Shares of the No 1 social network fell 10% to an all-time low of $28,65, before closing at $28,84, or down 9,6%. Since its market debut at $38 on May 18, the eight-year-old company has shed approximately $25 billion in value — roughly equivalent to the market capitalisation of Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter of Facebook’s initial product offer (IPO).

Wall Street has harboured concerns that Facebook, while boasting nearly a billion users worldwide and dominating Internet social-networking, would have difficulty translating its growing presence on smartphones and other mobile devices into revenue. Rivals Google Inc and Apple Inc currently dominate the mobile arena.

Facebook’s quest to monetise mobile is spurring widespread speculation over its next moves.
Technology bankers say the company would benefit from tacking on mobile operating software through an acquisition of Norway’s Opera, which has been on the auction block for a while.
The New York Times cited sources dredging up a long-standing rumour that Zuckerberg was pondering building a Facebook phone, and that an easy way to acquire the hardware expertise needed was to buy troubled Research in Motion.

The Blackberry maker said late on Tuesday that it hired JP Morgan and RBC Capital Markets to help the company and its board with a “strategic review.
“They are clearly looking at smartphones and are trying to become more vertically integrated with their users,” said Ryan Jacob of the Jacob Internet Fund. “They just don’t want to be another app on Google’s or Apple’s platform.”

“Speculation that Facebook is dabbling outside their main expertise and possibly planning another large acquisition may be unsettling to some investors,” he added. “But I think options trading is behind today’s drop in the shares.”

Facebook options began trading on Tuesday, presenting a tempting target as more investors bet the underlying stock would head south. They piled into put and call options — granting investors the right to sell or buy stock at a certain price — marking one of the busiest debuts ever in the options market.

“The fact that the stock has been weak on the first day of options trading means people are betting on future declines or buying insurance,” Jacob said. “Investors may want to hold the stock, but are buying protection in case the price falls further.”
Jacob said he did not buy Facebook shares in the IPO and has not bought the stock since the debut.
“If the price is right we would consider buying,” he added. “It’s not quite there yet.”

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