By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 24 Facebook (FB.O) shares dropped on Monday after financial weekly Barron's questioned the social networking company's value and priced its stock at just $15.
Facebook's shares slid 10 percent to $20.64 in mid-day trade on Nasdaq, about 46 percent off of its $38 IPO price in May. The decline shed most of its gains from the previous week, when shares were boosted by news that the company was testing a new mobile advertising network.
"Is the stock a buy? The short answer is 'No,'" Andrew Bary wrote in the latest edition of Barron's over the weekend. "The stock trades at high multiples of both sales and earnings, even as uncertainty about the outlook for its business grows."
At $15, Facebook would still be richly valued at 24 times its projected 2013 profit. That's compared to established tech giants Apple (AAPL.O) and Google (GOOG.O), which both now trade for about 16 times their 2012 earnings, Barron's argued.
Aside from the No. 1 social network's struggle to adapt to the rise of mobile devices, Barron's also highlighted Facebook's stock compensation costs, which have ballooned as the company fights to hold onto its employees by dangling more shares.
Barron's estimated that Facebook's restricted-stock issues were "so large last year that it may have exceeded its cash compensation costs."
"CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to have a cavalier attitude" about stock compensation, Barron's wrote, because of the company's policy of granting more shares to employees to make up for its declining stock price.
(Reporting By Gerry Shih; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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