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The date all Facebook investors should dread

If you were an employee of Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) sitting on millions of dollars of paper wealth, how would you feel about the stock’s plunge since its IPO? If you’re like me, you’d be waiting for the chance to turn those paper dollars into real dollars by dumping shares as fast as you can. Soon, inside investors and employees will get their wish, and the rest of us should be very aware of what it means for us.

Soon, some Facebook insiders will get their chance as the lockup period ends for some shares post-IPO. On Aug. 16, about 271 million shares were able to be sold by insiders, except for Mark Zuckerberg. Another 243 million will be available to be sold between Oct. 15 and Nov. 13. On Nov. 14, the floodgates open and 1.2 billion shares will be freed. Keep in mind that the IPO sold only 180 million shares, so in a week the float will increase substantially.

These are surprisingly important days for investors in IPOs, especially those with a small float. When employees and other investors who were locked up get their chance, they often dump shares, causing the stock price to dive.

When the recent IPOs of  Groupon (Nasdaq: GRPN), and LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) hit their IPO lockup period expiration, the stocks all fell as shares flooded the market. These didn’t have the same staggered lockup like Facebook and instead had a more traditional 180-day lockup.

Company

Date Lockup Period Ended

Share Performance Day After Lockup

Share Performance 1-Month Before Lockup

Tesla Motors Dec. 27, 2010 (15.1%) (13%)
Zipcar Oct. 11, 2011 (0.7%) (12.2%)
Groupon June 1 2012 (8.9%) (42%)
LinkedIn Nov. 21, 2011 (2.8%) (17.8%)

What’s interesting to note is that shares also plunged in the month leading up to the lockup expiration as investors anticipated the flood of shares. This could be another factor helping drive shares of Facebook south over the next three months.

Incentive to sell
The majority of Facebook’s shares will be able to be sold on Nov. 13, and there is a huge tax incentive to sell before Jan. 1. That’s when the long-term capital gains tax will go from 15% to as high as 25% if the Bush-era tax cuts aren’t extended.

Whether investors bought shares in a funding round or got them through working at Facebook, this is an extra incentive to sell their stock.

Get out while you can
The history of stock performances after lockups end is mixed, so if I were interested in buying shares I wouldn’t be afraid to just because shares dive leading up to Nov. 14. Zipcar rose 6% in the moth following the lockup, while Tesla and Groupon declined slightly. What I would be very wary of is loading up on shares now with a tsunami of Facebook shares hitting the market in the next three months.

Foolish bottom line
There are nuances of the market that investors, especially retail investors, should be aware of and often aren’t. The IPO lockup is one of those nuances, and it has a huge impact on how a stock trades and performs around the lockup date.

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The Motley Fools purpose is to help the world invest, better. Take Stock is The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription, whilst it’s still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

A version of this article, written by Travis Hoium, originally appeared on fool.com

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