My Facebook Play Selling a Bit More

If you remember, I’ve noted a couple times in the last few months that the stock I was using to (in part) speculate on a mania in facebook shares before and during the IPO process is Mail.ru, the Russian internet company that owns a bit over 2% of facebook shares pre-IPO.

Mail.ru just announced, as part of the ramped-up IPO, that they will now be selling a planned 19 million shares or so in facebook, which is a bit more than a third of their total facebook shareholding. That number will probably hit about 21 million shares if the overallotment hits all of the offering parties, which I expect it will (the IPO, despite recent attempts to talk down the shares with chatter about their still-weak ad offering, is going to go ballistic on the first day — the demand is just ridiculous). They’ll still own about 35 million shares after the IPO.

I’m assuming that the IPO will price well above the range and rise at least 50% from there on the first day pop, so I’ll guess that the selling price for shareholders will be $40 (the range is currently $34-38, it sold at near $50 on the secondary market a few months ago before the IPO announcement). That means Mail.ru will book something in the neighborhood of $800 million in cash, and they will continue to own shares that are worth roughly $1.4 billion at that $40 price. A lot of those shares are locked up for an extended period of time, up to a year probably, so that’s one motivation for offering the shares in the IPO instead of holding on to see if you can sell at a higher valuation, that holding on would mean waiting for a long time and taking some risk if things don’t work out. So they’ve effectively taken some of their exposure to facebook off the table but, post-IPO, will still hold a meaningful position in the stock of a bit over 1%.

I still like the underlying businesses at Mail.ru, and still think their windfall from facebook should make the shares worth north of $40 … but if we get more of a pop following the IPO and facebook trades at, say, $80 in a couple weeks, I might sell Mail.ru on that pop and look to buy back in later. Mail.ru also has substantial holdings ...

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