Morgan Stanley made big bet on Facebook

Fri May 18, 2012 10:09pm EDT
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By Nadia Damouni and Olivia Oran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lead Facebook Inc (FB.O: Quote) underwriter Morgan Stanley (MS.N: Quote) took a bet earlier this week when it increased the size of the social networking firm's $16 billion initial public offering and it boosted the price.

Thanks to massive hype surrounding Facebook's historic public offering, the wager looked safe. But a rocky first day of trading has raised questions about whether it paid off.

After a delayed start to trading, Facebook's shares spent much of the day struggling to stay above the $38 IPO price - and ended with just a 23-cent gain.

As a result, Morgan Stanley may have spent billions of dollars to support the stock price by buying shares in the market. Some market participants said that the underwriters had to absorb mountains of stock to defend the $38 level and keep the market from dipping below it.

The firm did this by tapping into a 63 million share over-allotment option, or greenshoe, according to sources familiar with the deal.

As an indication of the cost, had Morgan Stanley bought all of the shares traded around $38 in the final 20 minutes of the day, it would have spent nearly $2 billion. Underwriters are not obligated to prop up a stock on debut, but typically do.

Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

The debut marks a rare stumble for a high-profile IPO. Facebook is the only recent U.S. internet listing not to enjoy a large price jump on its first day of trading. LinkedIn LNKD.N, Groupon (GRPN.O: Quote) and Pandora Media (P.N: Quote) all saw significant gains at their public debuts.   Continued...