It marked the fourth time a torrent of the social networking giant's shares were let loose for trading since the company's hugely hyped initial public offering (IPO) on May 18 at $38 a share.
The reaction to the sizable release of shares has been mixed.
That's why, for the third time in nearly as many months, Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) on Wednesday braced for what could have been the largest selling spree yet to hit the social networking giant.
Scores of early investors and employees were at liberty to sell 778 million shares. Another 31 million in restricted stock, awarded to employees who joined the Menlo Park, CA-based company prior to 2011, were also unbound, along with 48 million shares held by former employees.
The staggering number is almost equal to Facebook's existing 921 million share float, according to data from the company's most current filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
But, a strange thing happened.
The end of the lockup period (used to reduce trading volatility immediately after an IPO) will kick off with up to 271 million shares flooding the market on the sell-side. More shares will become available over the next few months, compared with less than 500 million currently authorized for trading.
Investors who got in early and paid a mere pittance for the stock may race to cash in despite Facebook's steady decline since its legendary May 18 initial public offering at $38 a share. Since the fabled IPO, which morphed into a trading fiasco, shares have lost some 40% of their value.
The flood of shares ready to be unlocked is off-putting for some potential buyers.
"It's one of the No. 1 issues on investor's minds right now," Herman Leung of Susquehanna International Group told Bloomberg News. "Even the investors that I talk to who want to buy the stock and like the company are not sure if they can stomach the lockups."