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How Will Morgan Stanley Be Able To Pay Tech Bankers With A Measly $100mm Facebook IPO Fee?

I really hope that Facebook is just faking us all out with this whole “we’re IPO’ing on Wednesday” thing that they haven’t said, in part because I have yet to park $100k of the Dealbreaker slush fund/Bloomberg budget in Facebook shares on SharesPost. But just in case they actually do something next week let’s analyze the hell out of everything so we can be proven wrong by the filings. Okay? Okay.

One thing to over-analyze is that presumptive lead-left bookrunner Morgan Stanley’s shares did or did not go up on the news that Facebook will or will not file next week and MS will or will not be the lead bookrunner. One reason for the market to shrug off this quasi-news is that Morgan Stanley won’t actually make any money on the deal since Faceook is planning to punch everyone in the face on fees:

Facebook’s initial public offering is likely to set a new standard for how low investment banks are willing to go on advisory fees to win big business.

The world’s largest online social network is expected to tap public markets for $10 billion (6 billion pounds) in the coming months in an offering that will value the company at up to $100 billion, according to sources familiar with the planned IPO. It will be one of the biggest U.S. market debuts ever, and a prized trophy for the investment bankers seeking to win lead advisory roles.

That has set up a fierce competition on Wall Street, particularly between the presumed front-runners Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, which may offer their underwriting services for as little as 1 percent of gross proceeds, bankers and industry observers said.

So let’s say MS ends up with 25% of the economics – low for a lead underwriter – of a 1% gross spread $10bn deal. That’s a paltry $25mm for their efforts. Practically nothing.

Just for fun, Morgan Stanley did $1,132mm of equity underwriting revenues in 2011. By my count (Bloomberg LEAG, global equity & equity-linked & rights) that’s for 273 equity deals, meaning it got about four bucks a pop for those deals. It did 127 US equity deals with an average size of around $133mm and an average fee ticket of around $5mm, if you believe Bloomberg numbers.*

By that measure Facebook is 5x better. By other measures – like, say, the fact that Facebook is only paying 1% vs. market-standard 7% for small deals – it’s I guess 7x worse. Which is right?

Well, call me crazy, but I’m a big fan of money. And a sad fact about investment banking is that big deals tend to be easier than little ones. Not always, lots of caveats, but the sheer execution pain involved in a merger of among two huge public companies always seems to be dwarfed by that of a $50mm asset sale. Similarly a little IPO requires a team of bankers to learn about a little company, diligence the hell out of it to avoid selling fake trees or whatever, and then convince investors to learn about and buy it. Nobody needs to learn about Facebook. It’s Facebook! It learns about you!

In any case, IPO difficulty/work/risk/expense certainly doesn’t scale up linearly with size – it’s more likely flat or even declining. So if you’re not working any harder to get Facebook done than you are to get anything else done, then your $25mm Facebook ticket looks like about $5mm of regular IPO pay and $20mm of delightful profit. Much of that delightful profit is, of course, frittered away on miserable pitching, since rents call out rent-seekers. You can bet that Facebook pitch books were longer and prettier and less typo-ridden than the average $100mm IPO pitch, and were delivered by bank CEOs rather than midlevel VPs. Also people probably did stupid stunts like wearing band t-shirts and throwing sheep at each other and otherwise whoring themselves out depressingly to a bunch of fleecey 20-somethings. Still, no bookrunners will have much cause to be sad about the economics of their Facebook ticket from the perspective of, um, economics.

The reason to be sad about a 1% fee is not that it’s bad for the bottom line on that deal. It’s that it sets a bad precedent. The investment banking industry to a large extent revolves around “fee discipline,” which is basically the notion that the fee for an IPO is 7% and if you don’t like it you can suck it. This is important precisely because there’s no earthly reason for that number, and it’s also fragile for the same reason. You do a couple of deals for 6% fees and suddenly your fees are 6%. Morgan Stanley does a couple of deals for 6% and suddenly everyone’s fees have to be 6%. The world ends.

But this is Facebook! It’s fine. It’s the gigantic-est deal ever since, um, 2010, and it’s much sexier than bankrupt car companies. Also they’re dicks. No other company would dare ask for an 85%-off discount on IPO fees just because Facebook got one, right?

In some ways the 1% gross spread here works out better for the banks than a higher fee would. I mean, they’d take an extra hundred bucks or so, but a fee that looks microscopic – as opposed to just a little below market – is easier to justify as a one-off and exclude from future fee runs. And, just to be sure, a little whining to the press about how this is an unprecedented, uneconomic, puts-us-out-of-business, never-to-be-repeated lowering of fee standards can’t hurt.

Facebook Readies IPO Filing for Next Week [WSJ]

In Facebook IPO, bankers seek prestige over fees [Reuters]

* This is all equity deals and includes lower-paying and often smaller follow-ons. So sue me.

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82 Responses to “How Will Morgan Stanley Be Able To Pay Tech Bankers With A Measly $100mm Facebook IPO Fee?”

  1. Guest says:

    Morgan Stanley sure is the egg mcmuffin of ipo underwriters

  2. Beaker says:

    I have a feeling that a very special MS analyst will break the red bull and blow record that the human body can drink/snort over this weekend!

  3. Comp Quant Kumquat says:

    Three whole Matt posts in one day, and a Friday no less, sounds like someone is pretty happy with their bonus, any word on how much was in restricted bessbux?

  4. guest says:

    6:45 p.m. Friday night post? I bet that slammy you want to bang is working late too and you have the z4 double parked out front. SWAG.

  5. Laxbro says:

    No, dome + sandwich only, yes.

  6. 2StopShop says:

    No, No, Yes, No, YES!

  7. Guest says:

    getting middle-aged bankers to crawl through your legs is the NKI

  8. Guest says:

    "Nobody needs to learn about Facebook. It’s Facebook! It learns about you!"

    Good work, you verbose bastard. That was really funny.

  9. Daniels Labia says:

    Matt Levine gets posted up in the paint by Amare. You're a horrible writer. Quit.

  10. VonSloneker says:

    No, no, no, yes (for a puny IB fee).

    – Morgan Stanley

  11. deal_mkr says:

    good post. matt

    – matt hater

  12. reality says:

    I figured warburg baller would banged this out over a weekend.

    that scumbag fuck

  13. MS MD says:

    When you pay employees nothing anyway you can do deals for free.
    MS is a broken model thanks to McKinsey who is running it into the ground.
    The ways in which upper management/McKinsey is doing business will continue to break the revenue models for the entire street.
    This will be dangerous for all. It may be time to find a union job.

  14. Guest says:

    " IPO difficulty/work/risk/expense certainly doesn’t scale up linearly with size"

    ? How do you know? Where's the graph?

  15. OWS says:

    So much for that whole oligopoly/collusion theory.

    -OWS

  16. Johnny Quant says:

    This is depressing.

  17. Non-facebook user says:

    Givwen this deal will need no marketing at all, seems odd they wont follow a google auction model and pay zero to the street.

    • goog says:

      this is as close to zero as it gets.

      google ended up pretty, "underpriced" via dutch auction, but it was great to watch that day as I remember well. i imagine it created a lot of goodwill for some participants for a period for whatever that is worth.

      hate me on facebook

  18. Warburg Dinkus says:

    @11 – I was too busy banging your mom.

  19. analyst says:

    the third from the left has lips that say, " I suk a mean billion dollar cock. "

    second from left is doing that weird chick head tilt move for a photo bit.

    first one…is umm a nice person.

  20. davidrusso says:

    1%? WTF? Cap-intro chicks with small tits rape me for 1.5%. Get MS on the phone stat.

    -Stevie C.

  21. Mark Zuck says:

    I bet Lloyd is pissed with didn't give him the business.

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