Facebook IPO was May 18th, 2012. I understand that employees are not able to sell their shares until 6 months after the date of IPO (is this correct?). Can we expect the price of Facebook to decrease after November 18th, 2012 as employees are now able to supply their shares to the market?
Whenever a large number of shares to be sold hit the market at the same time the expectation is that the price for each share will drop.
The employees in a normal market would be expected to sell some of their shares at the first opportunity. Because during the dot com boom some companies employees were able to become millionaires, every employee at a tech IPO hopes to be richly rewarded.
If the long term prospects of the stock price are viewed by the employees as a continuous path up, then the percentage of shares that will hit the market is low. They do want some instant cash, but want the bulk of the shares to capture future growth.
The more dismal the long term price lookout is, the greater the percentage of shares that will hit the market. The general consensus is that as each of the Lock Ups expires a significant percentage of shares will be sold, and the price will suffer a short term drop.
The stock market is generally a long term investment platform. The share prices reflect more the companies potential to be profitable in the future rather than its actual value. Companies that have good potential can over perform their actual value. We saw this regularly in the early days of the internet prior to the .com bust. Companies would go up exponentially based on their idea's and potential. Investors learned from that and are demanding more these days. As a result companies that do not show growth potential go down. Companies that show growth and potential (apple and google for 2 easy examples) continue to go up.
Many companies have specific days where employees can buy and sell stocks. there are minor ripples in the market on these days as the demand and supply are temporarily altered by a large segment of the owner base making trades. For this reason some companies have a closed pool that is only open to inside trades that then executes the orders over time so that the effect is minimized on the actual stock price. This is not happening with face book. Instead many of the investors are dumping their stock directly into the market. These are savvy investors and if there was potential for profit remaining you would not see the full scale exodus from the stock. The fact that it is visible is scaring off investors itself. I can not think of another instance that has gone like facebook, especially one that was called so accurately by many industry pundits.
There's an odd anomaly that often occurs with shares acquired through company plans via ESPP or option purchase. The general situation is that the share value above strike price or grant price may become ordinary income, but a sale below the price at day the shares are valued is a capital loss. e.g. in an ESPP offering, I have a $10 purchase price, but at the end of the offering, the shares are valued at $100. Unless I hold the shares for an additional year, the sale price contains ordinary W2 income. So, if I see the shares falling and sell for $50, I have a tax bill for $90 of W2 income, but a $50 capital loss. Tax is due on $90 (and for 1K shares, $90,000 which can be a $30K hit) but that $50K loss can only be applied to cap gains, or $3K/yr of income.
In the dotcom bubble, there were many people who had million dollar tax bills and the value of the money netted from the sale couldn't even cover the taxes. And $1M in losses would take 300 years at $3K/yr.
The above is one reason the lockup date expiration is why shares get sold. And one can probably profit on the bigger companies stock.
Edit - see Yelp down 3% following expiration of 180 day IPO lock-up period, for similar situation.
Say I am an employee of Facebook and I will be able to sell stares at enough of a profit to pay of my mortgage and have enough money left to cover my living costs for many years.
I also believe that there is a 95% chance that the stock price will go up in the next few years.
Do I take a 5% risk, when I can transform my life without taking any risk? (The USA tax system as explained by JoeTaxpayer increases the risk.)
So you have a person being very logical and selling stocks that they believe will go up in value by more than any other investment they could have. It is called risk control.
(Lot of people will know the above; therefore some people will delay buying stock until Lock Up expiration day hoping the price will be lower on that day. So the price may not go down.)