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Facebook CEO faces ire over slumping stock at shareholder meeting

Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook's strategic direction as he fields a litany of angry comments from investors.

June 12, 2013|By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg assured investors before the question-and-answer session began that "we're disappointed with the performance of the stock over the last year." Above, Zuckerberg speaks during an April 4 event at Facebook headquarters.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg assured investors before the question-and-answer… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, grilled by shareholders unhappy about the slumping stock price, took pains to defend the company he founded.

With the stock trading nearly 37% below its offer price of $38, Zuckerberg fielded a litany of angry comments from investors at the company's annual meeting Tuesday, when the shares fell 30 cents, or 1.2%, to $24.03.

The tenor of the shareholder meeting — Facebook's first since its rocky initial public offering in May 2012 — showed just how far he has to go in convincing Wall Street that the prospects for Facebook's future are bright.

Several of the investors who stepped forward to ask questions during the meeting, held at a hotel in Millbrae, Calif., spoke of having bought the stock at high prices, only to have their hopes dashed. Shares of Facebook have never closed above their IPO price, resulting in a room packed with a lot of pent-up frustration.

One investor called the stock a "disaster." Another lamented that as a fan of Zuckerberg's, he "blindly" invested money for his son's education.

Anticipating a high level of discontent, Zuckerberg assured investors before the question-and-answer session began that "we're disappointed with the performance of the stock over the last year."

He defended the Menlo Park, Calif., company's strategic direction, saying its mobile advertising business is going strong and accounts for about 30% of total ad sales. Zuckerberg reiterated that he had no control over the company's stock price but that it would not impede Facebook's success.

"Nothing in that has made me think that the fundamental strategy is wrong," he said.

But Zuckerberg acknowledged that the slumping stock price was "kind of the theme of the meeting."

With more than 1 billion users, Facebook was the first U.S. company to make its publicly traded debut with a value of more than $100 billion. Many people flocked to the hotly anticipated IPO, eager to own a piece of the consumer brand they themselves use.

At the close of the shareholder meeting, Zuckerberg was handed a reprieve from the collective chiding.

"I'm not asking a question. I'm telling you: You are wonderful," one elderly investor said.

Zuckerberg thanked her.

jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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