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投资理财

美国科技股到底有没有泡沫

Kevin Kelleher 2012年05月23日

Facebook的上市是一场测试,它考验的是投资者们是否又掉入了非理性亢奋的泥淖里。同时它又不仅仅是一次测试,它可能是一个火药桶,会占燃市场对科技股的热情,诱发投资者对科技股进行疯狂投机,进而催生出新一波渴望一夜暴富的创业公司。

    现在有人想谈谈泡沫的问题吗?

    在Facebook上市前的几周里,关于硅谷是否进入了另一个科技泡沫的辩论正在发酵。有些人引述了一些“怪异行为”来支持“泡沫说”,比如有人向根本没有收入的公司投了大价钱。另一些人则认为“泡沫说”是杞人忧天。当然,这两种观点都是老调重弹了。去年关于硅谷泡沫问题曾有过一些清醒的讨论。而且还有人说2006年也发生过科技泡沫。

    Facebook的上市也是一场测试,它考验的是投资者们是否又掉入了非理性亢奋的泥淖里。同时它又不仅仅是一次测试,它可能是一个火药桶,会占燃市场对科技股的热情,诱发投资者对科技股进行疯狂投机,进而催生出新一波渴望一夜暴富的创业公司。

    不过等他们看过了Facebook的上市招股书,也许就不会这样疯狂了。当然,如果你仔细观察Facebook的财务状况,你会发现这是一家无可争辩的成功企业,但是它最好的日子可能已经过去了。Facebook最近一个季度的财务状况可谓毫无亮点。而且最近它斥资10亿美元收购了照片分享应用Instagram,很多人认为这起收购并不是为了弥补它在移动方面的弱点,而是孤注一掷的一个标志。

    几年以来,Facebook的股票在二级市场上一直深受追捧,直到上周五Facebook正式上市,普通股民们才有了买入的机会。不过上周五他们并没有在交易所前排起长队。承销商们对Facebook股票的定价也很公平,不过他们可没有帮上自己什么忙。影响了硅谷最近几桩交易的非理性思维并不会影响到公开市场,市场上也不会有泡末——至少现在不会有。

    但科技界中并不缺乏非理性的投资。而且有趣的是,许多风险投资家一边否认“泡沫说”,一边却不愿意谴责那些如果算不上猖獗、起码也是越来越常见的奇怪行为。

    首先从Facebook的估值说起。许多投资者之所以迅速卖掉了上市时分派的股份,一定是因为他们也觉得Facebook的估值太荒唐了——Facebook的上市估值是过去12个月收入的26倍,净收入的107倍。如果你觉得这不算高,那就问问那些前几年还哭着喊着要买Facebook股票的投资者吧,比如高盛(Goldman Sachs)和数码天空科技(Digital Sky Technologies),现在他们正争先恐后地抛售Facebook的股票。Faceook的上市收入有57%进了内幕人士的口袋,只有43%到了公司手里。

    在企业并购方面,事情变得更没有逻辑。有的时候,一个买主就能创造出一个让人发狂的估值。拿最近流行一种趋势来说,许多广受欢迎的应用和网站哪怕只有很少的收入,或者压根没有收入,都能卖出十亿美元的高价——比如上个月Facebook斥资10亿美元收购了Instagram。也就是说,一个有着荒唐估值的公司,利用它的股票买下了另一个估值更疯狂的公司。看来Facebook不仅在社交网络方面是个大胆的创新者,在基本面分析上也是一样。

    Does anyone want to talk about a bubble now?

    In the weeks leading up to Facebook's (FB) much-trumpeted IPO, a debate simmered over whether Silicon Valley was entering another bubble. Some cited "bizarre activity" like spending big on companies with no revenue. Others dismissed fears of a new bubble as overblown. And of course, none of this was new. Last year, there were sober discussions of a Silicon Valley bubble. And you can find people wondering about one all the way back in 2006.

    Facebook's IPO was supposed to be an acid test to show whether investors were falling back into irrational exuberance. And it could have been more than a test, it could be the powder keg that ignited a mania for tech stocks, enticing investors to speculate in web stocks and bringing a flood of new startups into the queue looking for easy capital.

    Or that's how it seemed before Facebook filed its IPO prospectus. Once it did, any close look at Facebook's financials revealed an indisputably successful company, but one whose best years may already be behind it. Facebook's most recent quarter was lackluster. And its last-minute, $1 billion purchase of Instagram wasn't received as a way to strengthen its weakness in mobile, but as a sign of desperation.

    So small investors weren't lining up Friday when Facebook finally became – after years of availability for high-net-worth investors on secondary market exchanges – theirs for the buying. Underwriters priced Facebook fairly for the company, but they didn't do themselves any favors. The irrational thinking that has influenced some recent deals in Silicon Valley wouldn't infect the public markets. There would be no bubble – at least not for now.

    But neither is there an absence of irrational investing in the tech world. And it's interesting how many of the venture investors who are so quick to dismiss talk of a bubble are also reluctant, unless pressed, to decry the strange behavior that is, if not rampant, growing increasingly common.

    Start with the valuation of Facebook. One reason many investors were quick to sell their IPO-alloted shares must be its absurd valuation: 26 times its trailing 12 month revenue and 107 times its net income. If that doesn't seem high to you, just ask the same investors (like Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky Technologies) who were clamoring to buy a piece of Facebook a few years back. Now they couldn't wait to sell: 57% of Facebook's IPO proceeds went to insiders. Only 43% went to the company.

    Things are even less logical in the area of M&A, where it only takes one buyer to create a valuation worthy of a mania. Take the emerging trend ten-figure valuations to wildly popular apps and sites with little or no revenue. A new watermark was set last month when Instagram was bought by – that's right – Facebook. So you have a company with an absurd valuation using its stock to buy companies at even crazier valuations. Facebook seems to be a daring innovator not just in social media but in creative fundamental analysis as well.

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