How Nasdaq Is Recovering From the Facebook Debacle

Now this is how to score some much-needed positive PR. With much egg still dripping from its face after the debacle in listing a certain social-networking stock, Nasdaq OMX (Nasdaq: NDAQ  ) scored a big coup by poaching a blue chip, Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT  ) . The move is a great shot in the arm for Nasdaq, which is hungry for the investing community to regain trust in it after the ugliness of the Facebook (Nasdaq: FB  ) IPO. The good PR is the medicine the exchange needs to start healing from that burn.

A Krafty win
Changes are afoot at Kraft, which is soon to be split into two separate, publicly traded firms. One will be a worldwide snacks concern known as Mondelez International, and the other will retain the Kraft name and sell the current company's flagship brands (Velveeta, Oscar Mayer, etc.) on the domestic market. Since the company is making a big change, it probably thought it was appropriate to effect another, namely the switch to the new stock market from Kraft's longtime home, NYSE Euronext's (NYSE: NYX  ) New York Stock Exchange. Both Kraft and Mondelez are to be traded on the Nasdaq.

A Kraft spokesman said the prime reasons for its defection were costs and -- really! -- that cool piece of free publicity that is the e-billboard outside Nasdaq's home in New York City's Times Square. The money aspect of jumping ship is certainly compelling, since Nasdaq is significantly cheaper when matched against the NYSE. Having its stock listed on the former bourse can cost a company up to $99,500 per year, which is much less pricey than the NYSE's ceiling of almost $500,000.

These days, there's probably little material reason for a stock to opt for the New York exchange over the Nasdaq. Although the bourses technically effect their trades in two different ways -- NYSE, after all these years, is an actual exchange that still relies on floor traders, while Nasdaq has no physical presence and does its business electronically -- there's no material difference as far as clients are concerned. As long as what's being traded isn't, say, a Facebook on its launch day, those doing business on both can place offers quickly and get their orders filled properly in a reasonable stretch of time.

Graduating to Wall Street
In the good old days (i.e., the 1990s and the dawn of the publicly traded Internet company), the way it usually worked was that an ambitious young company would first list on Nasdaq. After reaching some level of revenues and operational stability, it would then make the leap to NYSE. Being listed on the New York exchange, since it's such an icon in the world of commerce, meant prestige. It was a signal to the business community that the company had made it to the top and intended to stay there.

But then certain big-name companies decided to park themselves on Nasdaq, and guess what? They didn't suffer any hit to prestige, nor did their fame diminish because of it. In fact, two of the five most highly capitalized stocks available -- Apple (Nasdaq :AAPL) and Microsoft -- are listed on the exchange, and have been for a very long time. They're hardly the worse for it -- for example, Apple's market cap, currently at around $542 billion, exceeds that of NYSE powerhouses Wal-Mart and General Electric combined.

NYSE Euronext hasn't taken this lying down. In recent years it's made a rather successful push to win more IPO business. It was very proud to report that it led all exchange groupings in terms of IPO funds raised in 2011, weighing in at a hefty $33 billion during the year. Some of those listings could be future Apples or Microsofts; 44% of America's tech IPOs were listed on the New York bourse. These weren't obscure names, either -- highflying Internet business networking stock LinkedIn was one of those titles, as was online radio broadcaster Pandora Media.

But who needs prestige?
Since the differences between the two exchanges are becoming blurred, the only real advantage the NYSE confers is the prestige of being linked to one of the most famous and successful institutions in capitalist history. As such, the Nasdaq has a real opportunity to capitalize on that big cost differential; sooner or later, most companies fall into the financial mud and are forced to slice costs. Rationalization was apparently a big factor in Kraft's decision, so why shouldn't other top names be seduced by the potential to save money?

Nasdaq would be happy to have more defectors and the fees they'll bring from listing and being traded. Notoriously, the exchange fumbled the Facebook IPO in the crucial first hours of trading, and to compensate it will be paying out (voluntarily) around $40 million to placate the stock's disgruntled investors. That'll put a dent in the company's plan to reach $50 million in savings by the end of this year. That chunk of change is also nearly 10% of the Nasdaq's raw quarterly revenues and almost 40% of net profit. Ouch.

The Kraft defection helps soothes the Facebook wound in terms of money. It also helps support the reputation of the exchange, which is badly needed at a time like this. It's exactly what the doctor ordered, so look for the Nasdaq to make a concentrated push to get more Krafts onboard. The exchange is still hurting, and it could really use the cash and good publicity.

The Nasdaq will do fine if it keeps listing stellar companies with enormous potential. Hidden somewhat in its stock listing is an under-the-radar tech name that is well positioned to take off. You can find out which company that is in our free report "Discover the Next Rule-Breaking Multibagger," available for download.

Fool contributor Eric Volkman owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of NYSE Euronext, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Apple, creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart, and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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