Analysts are cautious but positive about Facebook's prospects, according to a flood of research released on Wednesday.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) - With Facebook's(:FB) post-IPO quiet period over, analysts are flooding to cover the social networking phenomenon. Most are cautious but positive overall about the company's prospects, according to a firehose of research released on Wednesday.
The end of the 40-day quiet period means that the IPO underwriters can initiate coverage of the social networking giant, prompting a slew of research notes from the likes of Morgan Stanley(:MS), Citigroup(:CITI). JPMorgan Chase(:JPM) and Goldman Sachs(:GS).
Lead underwriter Morgan Stanley kicked off its coverage with an 'overweight' rating and a $38 price target.
"We believe that Facebook is uniquely positioned to leverage its large and highly-engaged user base to monetize the mobile Internet," explained Morgan analyst Scott Devitt, in his note. "Facebook is executing against three key priorities: aggregation, product initiatives, and monetization."
Not all analysts, however, were quite as bullish. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for example, initiated its coverage with a 'neutral' rating, but acknowledged Facebook's potential.
"Modest user monetization suggests big room for growth," explained analyst Justin Post, in a note, pointing to the company's Average Revenue Per User of $5, compared to Google's(:GOOG) $31. "We expect recently launched new ad formats, including Sponsored Stories in mobile and Promoted Posts to accelerate revenue growth in the second half of 2012, a potential catalyst."
Here's a roundup of Facebook coverage: J.P. Morgan Rating: Overweight Price; Target: $45 (Year-end 2013) Oppenheimer Rating: Outperform; Price Target: $41 (12 to 18 month) RBC Capital Markets Rating: Outperform; Price Target: $40 Morgan Stanley Rating: Overweight; Price Target: $38 Wells Fargo Securities Rating: Outperform; Valuation Range: $37 to $40 William Blair Rating: Outperform Piper Jaffray Rating: Overweight; Price Target: $41 Goldman Sachs Rating: Buy; Price Target: $42 Citigroup Rating: Neutral; Price Target: $35 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Rating: Neutral; Price Target: $38 Credit Suisse Rating: Neutral; Price Target: $34 Lazard Capital Rating: Neutral Pacific Crest Rating: Sector Perform Barclays Rating: 2-Equal Weight; Price Target: $35
Facebook's botched IPO last month prompted intense criticism of the Nasdaq OMX Group(:NDAQ), which subsequently offered compensation to financial organizations that lost out in the offering. Morgan Stanley also came under fire for its handling of the IPO.
Shares of Facebook, which have fallen 13.71% since the company's IPO, slipped 0.91% to $32.80 in Wednesday's session.
--Written by James Rogers in New York.
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