What if Facebook Picked a Different Ticker?

One of this year's biggest Wall Street stories has been the breathtaking decline of Facebook
following its May initial public offering. Simply put, the social media darling went public at $38 and is now trading around $19.25 -- a 49.3 percent plunge. There is no denying that investors have a myriad of concerns about Facebook. Chief among those concerns is how the company is going to increase revenue and become a major player in mobile applications. Said differently, chances are sellers would have gotten around to beating up the stock at some point. Maybe Facebook could have gotten off to a better start and kept the sellers at bay for a little while by doing something simple, such as picking a different ticker other than "FB." It might sound wacky, but
there is evidence to support the notion
that stocks with pronounceable tickers do perform well. According to the Wall Street Journal, Princeton's Adam Alter and Daniel Oppenheimer looked at nearly 800 symbols that debuted on the New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange between 1990 and 2004 and divided them according to whether their symbol was pronounceable. They found investing $1,000 in the pronounceable stocks at the start of their first day of trading would have made you $85.35 more in that day than investing in unpronounceable ones. Another study by Pomona College finance Professor Gary Smith was cited in the Journal article. Smith's study focused on the longer term performances of stocks with clever tickers. The result: From 1984 to 2004, a portfolio of stocks people considered the cleverest returned 23.6 percent compounded annually, compared with 12.3 percent for a hypothetical index of all NYSE and Nasdaq stocks, the Journal reported. Clearly, investing solely on the basis of ticker alone is a lot like going to the track and betting on a horse just because one likes the colors of the horse's silks. Said differently, no one in his or her right mind should be buying a stock based on ticker alone. That said, there are some stocks with clever tickers that have performed well over time. Since its spin-off from PepsiCo
in 1997, Yum Brands
has surged 762 percent. Anheuser-Busch InBev
has jumped 76.5 percent in the past five years. Southwest Airlines
is up nine percent in the past year. When rival American traded on the NYSE, it was under the ticker "AMR." Not catchy at tall. Today, American is under bankruptcy protection. Again, no one should be buying a stock based on ticker alone, but the evidence suggests that Facebook should have considered a ticker such as "FACE" or "LIKE" to have boosted the chances of the IPO getting off to a better start.

Posted In: Long IdeasNewsShort IdeasWall Street JournalIPOsIntraday UpdateMarketsMoversTrading Ideas

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