Almost a year ago, it was all over the headlines. You couldn't turn on CNBC or open an issue of The Wall Street Journal without hearing about it.
Then, May 18, 2012 came around -- the day Facebook (FB) went public.
It was the biggest Internet IPO in history -- even bigger than Google (GOOG), with a peak market capitalization of more than $104 billion.
But as soon as the stock went public, it became clear that the party was over.
Thanks to a malfunction in the way Nasdaq's computers handled millions of dollars in trades, as well as allegations that the company and its underwriters were involved in everything from inflating share prices, issuing too many shares and even overstating earnings, the stock eventually went into a tailspin.
All told, Facebook shares lost more than a quarter of their IPO value in less than a month and lost half their value within three months.
While "the herd" was waiting to cash in on the runaway success of Facebook by buying shares as soon as they went public, the "smart money" was busy cashing out -- selling their shares to a frothy public that had waited years for a Facebook IPO.
Peter Thiel -- one of Facebook's first investors -- made nearly $1.4 billion selling Facebook shares when they went public. Thiel originally gave the company $500,000 in 2004, back when it was still known as "The Facebook."
And then there's the story of David Choe... an artist who painted murals on the walls of Facebook's office. Rather than take his fees in cash, Choe took it in Facebook stock. Choe's stake was recently valued at close to $200 million.
For these early investors, Facebook has been a goldmine. These guys are literally millionaires because of the stock.
So, what's the difference between these guys and the Facebook shareholders that weren't so lucky? They acquired shares of Facebook BEFORE the company went public...
Choe, for example, got his shares in 2005, long before the world was obsessed with newsfeeds or relationship statuses.
Back then, shares of Facebook weren't listed on any exchange. As you can imagine, for people like you and me, to buy a stake would have been almost impossible. Normally, these kinds of investment opportunities are reserved for "elite" investors and company insiders.
You see, as Andy Obermueller, Chief Strategist of our Game-Changing Stocks newsletter puts it, "the rich are different" from you and me. Once you understand that, you'll be on your way to incredible gains and outsized yields.
Case in point: While these "elites" and company insiders were cashing in shares of Facebook and making millions of dollars from what's being called "the worst IPO of the last 10 years," the rest of the public was foaming at the mouth to buy shares.
The question is, how can you as an income investor be a part of the "smart money?"
Andy has found the answer. It's a way for investors like you and me to get in on the action. Simply put, he's found a unique set of securities that let investors like us buy into some of the world's fastest-growing companies (including Facebook before it went public) while they're still in their most lucrative growth stages.
It's a little-known asset class called business development companies, or BDCs.
Business development companies loan money to small private businesses in order to fund their growth. In exchange for the loans, BDCs normally receive interest payments or an equity stake in the company they're loaning to.
In other words, when you buy shares of a BDC, you're investing in a portfolio of the world's fastest-growing businesses... while they're still private.
For example, Hercules Technology Growth Capital (HTGC), a publicly-traded BDC, bought more than 300,000 shares of Facebook when it was still private -- giving investors a stake in the company long before its IPO.
In a world where private investments -- only available to some of the richest and well-connected investors -- are at a big advantage, business development companies help level the playing field.
And while you won't become a millionaire overnight, the best part is BDCs are required by law to distribute 90% of their earnings to shareholders. That means if a company in its portfolio is acquired or goes public, the BDC has no choice but to distribute the profits to its shareholders.
That means BDCs usually carry rich dividend yields. For example, right now, Hercules is yielding 8.5%. And MCG Capital (MCGC) yields more than 10%.
Here are a few more examples:
Of course with investing, nothing is 100% risk-free. And the same goes for investing in business development companies. But what might surprise you is that investing in a basket of small, private companies isn't nearly as risky as it may seem.
For one, due to government requirements, BDCs look to build a diversified portfolio where no single investment accounts for more than 25% of its total holdings. Typically, a company will hold more than 50 different loans spread out over 20 or more different industries.
They are also required to maintain a low amount of leverage. The government prohibits BDCs from acquiring more debt than equity. By law, the highest debt-to-equity ratio allowed is 1:1. For comparison, investment banks are often levered as high as 30:1.
Action to Take --> I want to make something clear. I'm not saying you should run out and invest every dime you have into business development companies. There is plenty more to learn about them before investing than I can include in this essay.
But there is no denying that with BDCs, you can share the same advantages as insiders that own shares of the world's fastest-growing private companies... long before the rest of the crowd even gets a chance.
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