Facebook's parent firm Meta on February 3 plunged over $200 billion in stock value – comparable to the size of New Zealand’s economy – after results that raised doubts about the troubled social media giant’s future.
In addition to costs of big investments on its metaverse vision for the internet and trouble for its core ads business, the firm predicted slower growth and even reported its first dip in daily users globally on the signature Facebook platform.
Facebook has long been marked by an insatiable push for growth, and now has nearly two billion daily users, but the results laid bare the challenges facing the social media giant on several fronts.
Shares have been down about 25 per cent since shortly after the opening in New York, resulting in a more than $200 billion hit to the company’s market value.
“It was a disaster quarter for Facebook and clearly they have some major headwinds over the next year,” Wedbush’s Dan Ives said.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had some $25 billion in value wiped from his personal holding by the rout on Wall Street, according to filings on the company stock he owns.
Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, has noted that it faces fierce competition for young users from the likes of explosively growing short-form video platform TikTok.
Ahead of results, analysts expected 1.95 billion daily active users on Facebook, but Meta reported 1.93 billion – a key indicator for where the platform is headed.
On the financial side, Meta reported a turnover of $33.67 billion, in line with its forecasts, but it made $10.3 billion in net profit in the fourth quarter, eight per cent less than last year.
Investors also recoiled at Facebook’s report of losing roughly one million daily users globally between the last two quarters of 2021 – a fraction of the total but a potential signal of stagnation.
“It’s the first time the user base is shrinking,” said analyst Adam Sarhan from 50 Park Investment. “If the company is not growing, then it’s a complete reset for investors.”
It is essential to note Meta is a still massive and growing on the whole – as 2021 closed, 2.8 billion people used one of its four platforms and messenger services at least once a day, and 3.6 billion at least once a month.
One way out of Meta’s troubles would be to acquire the next big thing in social media, as it has done previously.
But the company is under considerable scrutiny from US regulators after the damning allegations that emerged from its whistleblower crisis last year.
The internal documents leaked by ex-worker Frances Haugen highlighted accusations that executives prioritised growth over keeping their billions of users safe.
However, February 3’s dramatic sell-off is the latest to confront a Big Tech firm after a similar liquidation of Netflix shares last month, though the streaming giant has somewhat rebounded since.
Other tech giants such as Apple and Google parent Alphabet have rallied after results – though they both recently posted excellent numbers that calmed jittery markets.
Stocks have risen the last four days as the markets try to rebound from a bruising January pressured by worries over shifting US Federal Reserve policy and uncertainty over the crisis in Ukraine.
But the sharp fall in Meta and some other tech names “is raising doubts about the sustainability of the broader rebound effort”, said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O’Hare.