Technological innovations have so far outpaced government monitoring and regulation of Facebook (FB - Get Report) -- but that could soon change. As we'll no doubt see in Tuesday's congressional appearance by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, existential, financial and political threats to the company are on the front burner now after playing a secondary role ever since the company's inception.
There's a pendulum to U.S. government regulation; it often goes from none at all to a lot. Just look at what non-supervised banks faced in 2006 compared to what very supervised banks face today.
If things go against Facebook here, the company could face fines, the need to add thousands of non-revenue-producing employees to appease regulators or perhaps even a wholesale change of the company's business model (not for the better). In fact, Facebook and the other FANG stocks have entered what I call the "second inning" of their life cycles.
The first inning was one in which technological innovation soared, along with share prices. But the FANGs were in the batter's box then against a bunch of minor-league pitchers with little experience (and a government that remained dormant).
The second inning looks far different, as a Facebook faces a Hall of Fame pitcher like Sandy Koufax (who's my cousin, by the way). This pitcher has a quick fastball (heightened government regulation), an impossible-to-hit curve ball (adverse public sentiment), a wicked slider (rising costs), a change-up (worsening technicals on the stock) and a challenging knuckleball (potentially less engagement/usage).
It's true that some people see Facebook stock as a great value here. After all, the company's so-called "P/E/G ratio" (price to earnings to growth) is at an all-time low.
But I fear that the "E" in the P/E/G ratio -- earnings -- are likely overstated relative to consensus expectations, and that a valuation compression lies ahead for Facebook shares. FB isn't just a value trap to me here, but I think it's likely to be "dead money" for the rest of 2018.
As the 1970s rock band Stealers Wheel might have put it, the company's share price might be Stuck in the Middle With You -- locked in a price range of plus or minus 10% from current levels.
Before You Go
- Date: Saturday, May 5, 2018
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