January 3, 2011 by lonbud
Facebook Valuation Boggles the Mind
From the What’s It Worth? Department – big news in the world of finance today: the great minds at Goldman Sachs have conjured up a way for wealthy investors to get a piece of the Facebook action without actually having to take the company public.
Plunking down $450 million of its own money for a share of Facebook common stock which values the Internet equivalent of a high school lunchroom at $50 billion, Goldman won the right to create a “special purpose vehicle” whereby a select list of its own wealthiest clients can pony up an additional $1.5 billion to fund Facebook’s operations and, presumably, reward its founders and directors for being brilliant, savvy players in the post-Crash era.
Hey, well, bully for them all around. Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em, as the old saying used to go.
Just for kicks, though, I thought I’d poke around and see what $50 billion looks like in today’s world. While it won’t buy what it used to back in the day (ie: the entire gross debt of the United States was about $50 billion in 1940; it is over $1.3 trillion today ), you can still take down some pretty rad gear for that kinda dough.
If I were to give you a dollar per second without stopping, ever, to sleep, eat or take a dump, we’d each have to live for nearly 16 centuries to complete the transaction.
If we converted the money to $1000 bills we’d have to stack them more than 5 miles high to put them all in a single pile. Or we could trade that stack for a single $50 billion note at the Exchequer of Zimbabwe, but I think we might get screwed some on the exchange rate since that note buys two loaves of bread in Zimbabwe.
If we were Bank of America and wanted to buy the investment bank that sold itself for years as the one that was “bullish on America,” $50 billion would get us Merrill Lynch at its most favorable valuation, allow us to add more than 16,000 investment advisers to our roster and become the largest investment brokerage in the world. That actually happened. Back in 2008, remember?
If we were 70 of the IT world’s most important CIOs we could band together and pool our annual IT spend to try and create an alliance to define the standards that will comprise this thing everyone is calling “the Cloud.” And we did. And we do spend that much – every year.
If we were a prominent figure in high society, a member of the nation’s most exclusive clubs and a former NASDAQ chairman who founded one of the most successful securities firms in New York, we could create a $50 billion ponzi scheme, get caught, go to prison and drive our own son to suicide like Bernie Madoff did.
If we were the fastest-growing military and industrial power on the planet and we wanted to ensure continued access to the IMF teat at which we have suckled to nourish our stature as a force-to-be-reckoned with, we could do that for $50 billion as China did about 18 months ago.
If we were green-minded and thought about doing something tangible to shift the balance of power away from old-school, dead-fossil energy production and into low-impact, sustainable earth-friendly energy production we could buy about 40,000,000 solar photovoltaic panels. Installed.
If we weren’t high-concept and just wanted to buy stuff, we could get about 25 billion McRib sandwiches; 2 or 3 nuclear reactors; about 20 professional sports stadiums; 500 Andy Warhol paintings; 29,000 Bugatti Veyrons (the most expensive production car in the world); 600 America’s Cup-worthy racing yachts; 150 million pairs of Levis; or 200 million lightweight cotton hoodies like the one Mark Zuckerberg wears to work every day.
Or, if we were Apple Computers, we could just have it in the bank.
I don’t know whether or not Facebook is really worth $50 billion and I don’t know whether Goldman Sachs or any of its high-falutin’ clients is going to make or lose money investing in Facebook at that kind of valuation.
I suspect if they do make a profit, however, it means the money I have in my bank account is worth a whole heck of a lot less than I thought it was.