Monday, July 28, 2014

A Value Investors New Take On Facebook

Following a 10-day mission trip to a small and very poor community in the Dominican Republic, I’ll never view Facebook (FB) through the same lens that I had previously. I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with the company; hating the stock, but sometimes loving the application. 

Now, while I’ve grown weary of the endless stream of “look how great little Bobby is”, “look at my awesome vacation photos”, "I just ate pancakes" or posts describing a 50-year old friends first colonoscopy, I do understand just how wide Facebook’s reach is.

Two years ago, we met 10 year-old Jhon at our construction site in the DR; when he learned that we had the same first name (more or less), he rarely left my side for the next ten days, and we bonded. Young Jhon cried on our last day, and presented me with a drinking glass from his home, which I still treasure.  Last year, when I could not make the trip I was saddened, because I missed the little guy. Jhon looked for me; when my daughter, who was able to go told him I would not be there, he cried again.

This year,  the now 12 year old Jhon greeted me on our first work day, and I saw him frequently as we worked. The day we left this year he did not cry; Jhon has grown up. But he did make a request; not just from me, but several from our team. He wanted our full Facebook names so that he could friend us. I could not understand what he was asking me at first; he spoke no English, and I no Spanish. But after he said “Faybuk” several times, I finally got it, and was somewhat astonished.

Here, in a very poor Dominican city, well known as one of the most polluted cities (due to a former battery factory) in the world, a twelve year-old, lacking most if not all of the conveniences we take for granted living in the United States, wanted to connect on Facebook. And young Jhon was not the only one; several other children made the same request of me and others.  If nothing else, I dramatically underestimated how wide reaching the Facebook phenomenon is.

Lest you think that this value investor, however, has completely lost his mind, my opinion of Facebook the stock is unchanged. I still believe it is vastly overpriced, and can’t fathom the $195 billion market cap that the market has blessed the company with. 

However, I am impressed with the companies reach and name recognition. That still does not make it a great stock, though.

But what do I know; I'm just a value investor.

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