Swiss Miss: Central Bank Flubs Facebook

In an effort to hold down the value of the swiss franc, the SNB has been buying assets outside the country, particularly U.S. stocks.

By Spencer Jakab

Swiss National Bank owns a big chunk of Facebook shares.
Swiss National Bank owns a big chunk of Facebook shares. Photo: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg News


Sometimes it feels like tech stock investors have a license to print money. One actually does.

Like other central banks, the Swiss National Bank can create currency out of thin air and hasn’t been shy about it in recent years. The SNB is unique though because individual investors can buy shares in this magical money machine. Thursday was a bad day for them.

In an effort to hold down the value of the swiss franc, the SNB has been buying lots of assets outside the country and had been going cuckoo for U.S. stocks.

Unfortunately for its shareholders, mostly Swiss cantons, that included 7.87 million shares of Facebook which lost nearly a fifth of its value following quarterly results.

Don’t feel too bad, though. The SNB’s average cost was $92.29 a share, according to FactSet, or a little over half of Facebook’s diminished market price. Other top holdings include fellow tech giants Apple, Microsoft , Amazon and Google parent Alphabet.

While those stocks have been red-hot over the past couple of years, the SNB might have better-served its shareholders by doing a share buyback instead. The total return on its stock over two years has been 415%—far better than any of those. That is something to yodel about.

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