Is Facebook's Libra on Its Deathbed, With So Many Partners Fleeing?
The world seems to be entering a much more regulated area around technology, media and communications. When it comes to social media, there is the dominance of Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), and then there is everyone else. At a time when tensions have already been high over privacy and trust of data, and having a role for being targeted in endless political assault adds and content where accuracy is of no matter, Facebook’s stable cryptocurrency effort may die before it can even come to life.
It was just this summer when Facebook announced a digital currency effort called Libra. The company’s goal was to help facilitate billions of people around the globe to make financial transactions easier than via credit cards and current cryptocurrencies. While this may have been a threat to major banks on the surface, Facebook was partnering with some of the top financial clearing firms to get the effort going, and Facebook also targeted the un-banked population, who either do not have access to banks or use other companies besides traditional banks.
Where the move into a stable coin or cryptocurrency becomes tricky is that there is still neither a domestic or an international framework that is unilaterally in agreement for how to govern and regulate any nontraditional currency effort.
The larger issues around the Libra Association is that it has lost key members of the group. PayPal already announced that it would not remain in participation in the group, and companies such as Mastercard, Visa and eBay have reportedly ditched the effort in recent days. Their logos also do not appear on the partner page of the Libra association page.
A fresh interview of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with CNBC had him calling out the effort as not up to par by regulatory standards. He noted that there would have been enforcement actions.
The companies that are leaving and the Treasury are not the only groups with concerns about Libra. The House Financial Services Committee is expecting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify in Washington, D.C., on October 23, 2019. His last appearance in front of Congress was after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and Libra project manager David Marcus already testified as recently as this summer.
While Facebook is being left behind by the largest partners, other groups have not jettisoned their plans to join, and all of the announcements and indications really point to instances such as “at this time” and “will continue to evaluate.”
24/7 Wall St. recently evaluated what a breakup of Facebook would be like if that breakup was mandated by regulators. We showed what each major segment may look like on its own, but it remains to be seen where the Libra effort would end up, if it launches. With Facebook claiming to not own the effort, and with it being reliant on many outside companies and groups, it’s still not even assured that Libra will formally launch.
Perhaps Zuckerberg should simply jettison the effort before his testimony with a pledge to resume Libra once the group and the regulatory bodies in the United States and in the potentially endless number of other governments are more concrete. It’s a noble effort, but so far it’s looking as though this patient is DOA.
Facebook shares traded down 0.4% at $183.50 on Monday. Its 52-week trading range is $123.02 to $208.66, and the shares are up 39.9% from the $131.09 close on the last trading day of 2018. They are up 19.5% from the same corresponding trading day a year ago.