Bank of America
BusinessWeek is reporting that the social media superstar, struggling to maintain a billion-dollar valuation, is seeking $100 million in new debt financing to expand its data center operations. Bank of America is its primary commercial lender and has thus far refused to open its coffers, the magazine reports.
Is this the end of the Next Big Thing?
Color me concerned. It's one thing to see a troubled business like Sirius XM Radio
It's tough to tell. All we know for sure is that commercial lending is well below historic norms. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is on track to guarantee less than $10 billion in new business loans this year, the Los Angeles Times reports, down from $20 billion in a typical year.
Ailing balance sheets are a big part of the problem. Enough so that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner last week unveiled a plan to relieve JPMorgan Chase
And yet his proposal has issues. "While the plan is a step in the right direction, I'm hesitant to think the Treasury can uncover gold where private capital sees dirt," wrote my Foolish colleague Morgan Housel. "Maybe I'm just discounting Geithner's alchemy skills. Then again, probably not."
Therein lies the problem. Who cares if Treasury wants to jump-start lending if banks and their private equity peers see nothing worth investing in? Not even a superior growth business like Facebook?
The Next Big Thing ... begging for a bailout
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plenty to crow about. Not only is his Facebook nation bigger than France, it's now bigger than France, Germany, the U.K. and, on a global basis, News Corp.'s
Few companies not named Apple
How is it that this business can't find new financing?
To be fair, and as BusinessWeek points out, Facebook has already raised $500 million in equity and debt financing without producing a profit. Lenders have every right to demand conservative capital management and it's entirely possible that Facebook isn't being as careful as it should be.
Possible, but I doubt it. Venture capital is suffering right alongside commercial lenders. In a recent survey, law firm Fenwick & West found that, of 128 companies that received venture funding last quarter, one-third had to accept new money at a lower valuation. The rub? VCs are too pinched to take chances.
And they're being more conservative in how they report holdings. VC firm Harris & Harris
Someone find a priest, quick!
There are legitimate questions to ask when it comes to Facebook's real capital needs. Even so, top creditor TriplePoint Capital told BusinessWeek that it intends to keep working with Facebook.
There are also private equity success stories. Twitter is a fine example. In January, the microblogger closed a round of funding at a $250 million valuation, up $100 million from the month before. VCs, apparently, see the same billion-dollar opportunity that I do.
Trouble is, these stories are rare, and they'll only get rarer if banks won't open their wallets to bankable ideas like Facebook. The Next Big Thing isn't dead, Fool. But it is suffering.
Tim is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Harris & Harris at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy has been waiting for the Next Big Thing for 15 years. It's still waiting.