Investors in Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB), the No. 1 social network, got their first chance on Friday to gauge reaction to its $38-a-share public offering price that initially had valued the company at $104 billion.
At that price, the market value of the Menlo Park, Calif., website exceeds those of scores of other companies. Its IPO was the second-largest ever in U.S. history. Shares began to trade at $42, up about 8 percent, boosting Facebook's value to $114 billion. They ended at $38.27, valuing the company at $104.9 billion.
Facebook's starting value was already the richest ever in technology.
Based on Facebook's 2011 performance, investors will be paying a premium for an untested, eight-year-old company. At the starting level, its price-earnings ratio, based on last year's net income of $973 million on revenue of $3.7 billion, is a whopping 100 percent!
Consider some other No. 1 players:
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), the No. 1 name in electronics, is valued at $495.9 billion.
For fiscal 2011, ending last Sept. 24, net income for the Cupertino, Calif., company was $25.9 billion on revenue of $108.3 billion.
Now the world's most valuable company, Apple's price-to-earnings ratio is 12.92.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), the No. 1 computer maker, is valued at $42.4 billion.
For the fiscal year that ended last Oct. 31, net income was $7.1 billion on revenue of $127.2 billion.
The P/E of the Palo Alto, Calif., company is only 7.51.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), the No. 1 provider of Internet gear and software, has a market capitalization of $88.8 billion, around $11 billion below that of Facebook at the opening.
For the fiscal year ended June 30, Cisco reported net income of $6.5 billion on revenue of $43.2 billion. Back in 2000, Cisco, as Apple is now, was the world's most valuable company, with a value about $555 billion.
Now Cisco's P/E ratio is a modest 12.13. Cisco is based in San Jose, Calif.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), the biggest software company, has also been the most valuable company. Now, its market value is $245.9 billion.
The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant reported net income of $23.15 billion on revenue of $69.9 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2011.
Microsoft's P/E? A mere 10.72.
Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), the No. 1 chipmaker, is valued at $131.8 billion. The Santa Clara, Calif., semiconductor giant is the bellwether for the entire technology sector.
For the year ended Dec. 31, Intel said net income was $12.94 billion on revenue of $53.9 billion.
Intel's P/E is 11.03.
There are several technology-sector players with Facebook-like P/Es, notably Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), the No. 1 online retailer, with a P/E of 175.59. In that case, Jeffrey Bezos, chairman, CEO and president of the company, has decided to plow money into building market share in the tablet sector, forgoing current profit for future earnings.
But the other technology leaders all have more earnings, more revenue and cheaper share prices than Facebook, which started writing its own record Friday.