Thursday, May 17, 2012

Saturn sells Venus: The Facebook IPO

The social media giant Facebook finally goes public tomorrow (May 18) as it launches its shares to the public for the first time.  With an opening price of $38 per share, the IPO is likely to make Facebook raise over $20 Billion and make founder Mark Zuckerberg a cool $1.15 Billion when he cashes out a portion of this shares in early trading.  Not bad for a company that started in a Harvard dorm room less than ten years ago.  With almost 1 billion "friends" worldwide, Facebook has revolutionized much of the way we interact with others and think about ourselves in a social context.  Whether or not it is merely a passing fad is harder to say, although I suspect even if it is eventually replaced by some other company (remember Friendster and Myspace?), social networking in our hyperlinked wired world has been forever changed.

From an astrological perspective, the launch of the IPO at this time is particularly telling. What planets would one expect to be prominent at a time when the world's largest social networking site goes up for sale and in splashed all over the headlines?  Well, Venus for starters.  Venus is the planet of social interaction and friendship so it should be noteworthy in some obvious way.  And not surprisingly, it is.  Venus just stationed and turned retrograde on Tuesday May 15.  Whenever a planet stations, it comes to a full stop in the sky from our perspective on Earth.  As a general rule, the slower the planet is moving, the more powerful it becomes in terms of its symbolic associations. Venus only turns retrograde once every two years or so, so this is quite a strong correlation with a prominent and powerful Venus.  

We can also see that Venus is in a very close 120 degree angle with Saturn, the planet of structure and organization.  The Venus-Saturn symbolism here is quite appropriate, and even poignant.  Facebook is an organization that profits from friendship, and this IPO launch is the corporate expression of that function.  That is quite a telling embodiment of these two planets.  Saturn contacts with Venus tend to 'button down', harness or even constrain the inherent happiness or pleasure that Venus usually manifests by itself.    Saturn channels and adapts the natural human desire for connection that is intrinsic to Venus.  Saturn's influence therefore lies in its tendency to search for practical applications that stem from friendship.  Saturn is, in effect, asking: how can be make (Venusian) friendship more constructive and useful?   In a sense, Saturn is "selling" Venus.  That most human of experiences, friendship, is commodified for personal and corporate enrichment.

Jupiter is also in the mix here as it is closely aligned with both planets.  Jupiter can symbolize optimism and expansion and is often prominent in situations that assume a large scale.  Facebook is certainly a massive social phenomenon and this IPO will likely be the biggest in history.  Uranus, the planet of independence, change and rebellion, is positioned at the top of the chart near the unequal 10th house cusp, or MC.  This is a nice reflection of Facebook's revolutionary impact on society in the wired age. Uranus is often prominent in the horoscopes of technology-related matters, especially those that are based on innovation and which depart from tradition.

In terms of its stock price, its first trade horoscope does not look promising.  The Nasdaq opens at 9.30 a.m. and given the huge number of available shares, the first trade of Facebook will occur almost immediately.  I am therefore basing this analysis on the assumption that the first trade takes place just seconds after 9.30.  Right off the bat, we can see the problem with this chart.  Saturn is sitting almost exactly on the equal 4th house cusp casting its full strength 10th house aspect to the ascendant at  29 degrees of sidereal Gemini.   Saturn is usually a malefic planet and it particularly does not do well in the 4th house representing emotional composure and popularity.  Its tight aspect to the ascendant is another restrictive element to this chart that will tend to depress enthusiasm and presumably stock price over the long run.  It may also suggest that this attempt at explicitly profiting from Facebook's popularity could reduce its appeal.  Relatively innocuous ads were one thing, but listing on a stock exchange may change the public perception of Facebook.  Already we are seeing reports in the media of how much each Facebook account is worth in terms of advertising revenue, although with the monetary value of each user's friends. As one observer has wryly noted, "If you're on Facebook, you're not the customer, you're the product."

There are some possible offsetting influences, however.  Venus is sitting exactly on the equal 12th house cusp in close aspect to the ascendant.  It is well placed in its own sign of Taurus so that may mitigate some of the more draining Saturn effect.  Even better, Jupiter is placed very close to the cusp of the 11th house of gains and income.  Since Jupiter is a benefic planet by nature, this influence should be more positive and perhaps reflects the fact that many people will regard this stock as an instrument for gaining income and profit.  The ruler of the first house is Mercury and it is also well placed in the 11th house.  This is another plus for this chart.  The Uranus placement in the 10th house may increase both the profile and the volatility of the stock.  This is likely to be widely traded and quoted, perhaps in a way that Google and Apple are.  But Uranus can also make stocks (and people) unpredictable and, at times, unstable.  I would therefore expect the price range of Facebook to be quite wide in any given year.

More immediately, I think Facebook is more likely perform poorly over the next couple of months. The problem with the chart is that Saturn is moving retrograde now and will continue to afflict the ascendant for the next while, at least until July.  This could make share price tend to fall.  Some gains are perhaps more likely leading up to Jupiter's conjunction with the Sun in early June but since Saturn isn't moving too far away from its current position, it seems fairly unlikely that Facebook will significantly rise in value in the near term.  Things may get somewhat rocky by mid-June when Mercury crosses the ascendant and thus comes under the bearish influence of Saturn.  What's worse this will occur just as Mars will also be in alignment with Saturn.  This could the time when any early enthusiasm wanes and Facebook comes back down to earth.  The late summer and early autumn may be another difficult time for Facebook stock when Saturn opposes the Moon and Ketu conjoins the Sun. 

Not surprisingly, the horoscope of Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks quite good this week.  Born May 14, 1984 (time unknown), the 28 year-old Zuckerberg has transiting Jupiter conjunct the Sun this week.  This is a nice confirmation of his increased status around this IPO and reflects his achievement after many years of effort. His natal chart suggests he is a focused and disciplined person as seen in the complex pattern of planets in cardinal signs of Libra and Aries, both of which are associated with taking initiative.  He was born on a full Moon (Moon opposite Sun) which is usually positive for social recognition but Saturn, Venus, Mars and Mercury are also in the mix there.  The high concentration of planets in these two greatly intensifies his assertiveness and creative drive.  That Saturn is front and center in this alignment is the probable source of Zuckerberg's intense ambition and personal discipline to realize his goals.  As noted above, when Saturn is associated with Venus, the person can sometimes think of social contacts in a practical or even instrumental way.  This may be somewhat more likely with the Venus-Saturn opposition as Zuckerberg has.  It is interesting that Zuckerberg's own Venus-Saturn contact is reflected in this IPO which also features a prominent Venus-Saturn aspect.  Friendship is not for it's own sake, but rather something to be harnessed for gain or profit.  In a sense, this is merely bringing to the surface what is actually a sometimes uncomfortable fact behind most human relationships.  We get together to find commonality, to make our lives more pleasant and liveable and to work together toward the goals we share.  But underneath it all, friendship does have an inarguable dimension of trade and mutual benefit as many anthropological studies remind us.  We help each other. And in so doing, we are benefiting and profiting from each other's friendship.  The difference with Facebook is that they are monetizing this notion of mutual benefit in a new and more transparent way.  Whether or not there will be a backlash against Facebook is harder to say.  Human beings are inherently social animals but the form that this sociality takes will evolve and change as society changes.  Whatever its faults, Facebook has created a brilliant business model that is rooted in something that will never run out:  the necessity of humans to share and form relationships.