Shares in Facebook parent company Meta are in the midst of their worst day ever Thursday after the social media giant reported a rare decline in profit due to a sharp increase in expenses as it invests heavily in its transformation into a virtual reality-based company.
Meta’s shares fell more than 23% to $246.76 in early trading Thursday, lopping off more than $215 billion of the company’s overall value, known as its market capitalization. A drop that big would be the largest ever for a company on a single day. Facebook’s market cap dropped $120 billion on July 26, 2018.
The Menlo Park, California, based company said Wednesday that profit declined 8% to $10.29 billion in the final three months of 2021. Revenue rose to 20% to $33.67 billion.
The decline could partly be tied to Meta’s spending on its Reality Labs segment — which includes its virtual reality headsets and augmented reality technology. Meta invested more than $10 billion in the segment in 2021.
In addition, recent privacy changes by Apple make it harder for companies like Meta to track people for advertising purposes, which also puts pressure on the company’s revenue. On a conference call with analysts Wednesday, Meta’s chief financial officer said the company faces a $10 billion “headwind” from Apple’s changes in 2022. Analysts at MoffettNathanson, in a note to clients, called the estimate “stunning.”
Meta also forecast revenue well below analysts’ expectations for the current quarter, due in part to growing competition from TikTok, the company said.
Meta Platforms Inc. took on its new name last fall to emphasize CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s focus on the metaverse. Since then, the company has been shifting resources and hiring engineers — including from competitors like Apple and Google — who can help realize his vision. It expanded its workforce by 23%, ending the year with 71,970 employees, mostly in technical roles.