IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Facebook stock tanks on first day early investors can dump shares

Facebook’s stock price fell to an all-time low Thursday as the first part of a so-called “lockup” period for key investors in the company came to an end.

The period, which lasted for 90 days after the social network’s public offering on May 18, prevented some early investors and insiders from selling millions of shares they own in Facebook.

Those early investors include Accel Partners, a venture capital firm, and Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs. Insiders include Facebook board members such as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman, who is co-founder of LinkedIn.

Facebook’s stock price took a battering Thursday morning, although it’s unclear whether the decline was due to insiders selling their shares or other shareholders selling on concerns that insiders could unload their shares in the company. Any stock sellers have three business days to report their sales.

Lockup periods prevent insiders from selling their shares too close to a public offering, causing volatility in a stock.

By afternoon trading Thursday, Facebook’s stock price was down over 5 percent at $20, having fallen 7.1 percent to an all-time low of $19.69 in mid-morning trading. Facebook stock price has now lost 48 percent of its value since its debut in May at a $38 offering price.

Some 270 million shares owned by early investors became available for selling Thursday -- over half the 421 million shares that Facebook sold in its IPO in May.

But Thursday’s expiration is only the start of a worrisome period for Facebook shareholders.

This fall over 1.2 billion shares will be available for sale as a second lock-up period for the stock expires, flooding the market with Facebook shares and potentially reducing the value of the company’s stock. The final lockup period ends next May, one year after Facebook’s IPO.

Facebook has faced a difficult three months since its public offering, which was one of the most-anticipated IPOs in history.

The company suffered through a bungled public offering, marred by trading glitches on the Nasdaq stock market. Its share price hasn't traded above $38 since its debut, leading critics to say the underwriting banks set the price of the offering too high and sold too many shares to the public.

Investors are also worried about Facebook's ability to make money from its users, many of whom now access the site from mobile devices where the company derives little advertising revenue.

Mark Hawtin, investment director of GAM, an asset management firm, made the bullish case for Facebook on CNBC Thursday, saying Facebook will eventually find a way to monetize its almost 1 billion users.

“I have faith in the company,” he said:

Still, Thursday’s market action for Facebook's stock generated a great deal of negative commentary on StockTwits, micro-blogging site for stock investors.

Here's a selection of tweets:

 

More money and business news:

Follow NBCNews.com business on Twitter and Facebook