Facebook’s $100 Million Deal: Responding to Henry Blodget

I am not sure if Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Insider is playing devil’s advocate or if he really believes that Facebook opted for debt financing because it “couldn’t raise the rest of that $500 million round at that $15 billion valuation.” But his question is certainly legitimate and provocative.

Here’s what I think:

1. This was a smart business decision: Even if Facebook could raise more money at a $15 billion valuation, it makes economic sense to use some minimal form of debt financing to pay for capex. It’s reflects the company’s maturation process. As my story shows, more and more startups are beginning to take advantage of debt financing. Moreover, as Lee points out, even at a discounted $5 billion valuation, $100 million in debt would give Facebook a paltry 2% debt-to-equity ratio. That hardly puts the company in risky territory even if the economy gets worse.

2. As crazy as this sounds, I think Facebook would have a decent shot at raising more money at a valuation at or close to $15 billion. Does that mean I believe Facebook is worth that much? No. But Facebook’s valuation doesn’t depend on my opinion. It’s based on the marketplace’s opinion. And already, two of the most successful business enterprises in the world (Microsoft and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing) have ponied up large slugs of capital at a $15 billion valuation.

There’s dumb money, smart money and strategic money. And Facebook was shrewd enough and successful enough to take the strategic capital. Microsoft has helped Facebook generate advertising revenue while it gets its own ad business going, while Li Ka-Shing will open many doors for the company in Asia.

Both of these players invested in the company at a valuation that most people couldn’t stomach because they believe they can generate more value on the asset compared to other entities that don’t bring as much strategic value to the table (and because they can afford to lose $100 million or more). This is exactly why News Corp paid a massive premium for Dow Jones. Is Dow Jones worth $5 billion? Probably not to anyone except Rupert Murdoch. Only time will tell if these moves were brilliant or boneheaded. But there is perverse logic at work here.

So bottom line: I would venture that Facebook has a good chance at raising more money from another strategic-type investor at that seemingly irrational valuation–especially if it keeps growing its business and starts to figure out how to monetize social networks.

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