MARK Zuckerberg could see $24billion wiped from his personal wealth after shares of Facebook’s parent company plummeted on Wednesday.
Stock in Meta – formerly Facebook – dropped more than 20 per cent in after-hours trading following a limp fourth-quarter earnings result.
Should that move hold when markets open today, it will burn a $24billion hole in the pockets of founder Zuckerberg, 37.
That would leave him with a net worth of roughly $97billion, down from $120.6billion as of market close on Wednesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The move would push Meta’s chief executive officer outside of the list of the top ten richest people for the first time in nearly seven years.
He currently sits at the number five spot behind the likes of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla boss Elon Musk and Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
Zuckerberg holds roughly 17 per cent of all outstanding shares of Meta, the company he started in 2004 from his Harvard University dorm room.
The California tech titan on Wednesday delivered a gloomy mix of a sharper-than-expected drop in profit, a decrease in users and threats to its ad business that plunged shares some 22 per cent in after-hours trading.
Slippery Zuck blamed the meteoric rise of rival service TikTok on Facebook’s apparent stagnation.
“People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly,” Zuckerberg said during an earnings call yesterday, according to the Washington Post.
Already jittery markets have punished pandemic-era darlings including Netflix for disappointing results.
Meta got a taste of that after its $10.3billion quarterly profit and daily user-growth fell short of expectations.
Yet the signature Facebook platform also reported losing roughly one million daily users globally between the last two quarters of 2021.
That’s a tiny number on an app with nearly two billion daily users, but a potentially worrying signal of stagnation.
CFO Dave Weiner told analysts that user growth was impacted by “headwinds” including disproportionate growth in the Asia-Pacific during the pandemic that has slowed and an increase in mobile data prices in India.
“In addition to these factors, we believe competitive services are negatively impacting growth, particularly with younger audiences,” Weiner added.
The company’s executives have repeatedly referred to competition from TikTok but also from other networks, while they face numerous probes and complaints of abuse of dominance.
Analysts expected 1.95billion daily active users on Facebook, but Meta reported 1.93 billion – a key indicator of the growth trajectory for a company fueled by the people who choose to interact with its platforms.
On the financial side, Meta achieved a turnover of $33.67billion, in line with its forecasts, but it made $10.3billion in net profit in the fourth quarter, eight percent less than last year.
As an explanation for the disappointing performance, Meta noted competition and supply chain difficulties suffered by its customers, the advertisers.
Meta’s share price was down about 22 per cent to roughly $250 at 00:10 GMT in after-hours trade.
At the same time, the company said the rules imposed by Apple last year on ad targeting had a negative impact on its financial results in the fourth quarter.
In the update of iOS, its mobile operating system, Apple required application publishers to ask permission before collecting data, much to the regret of companies like Meta that rely on that information for ad targeting.
“Meta may only generate single-digit revenue growth. And that’s before any further legal and regulatory developments and actions,” Third Bridge analyst Scott Kessler said.
“It seems that many are re-evaluating in real-time,” he added.
As of December 31, 2021, 2.8billion people were using one of its four platforms and messenger services at least once a day, and 3.6billion at least once a month.
These are the first results released since the company’s name change in late October, which was both a turn toward the metaverse vision and a turn away from its scandal-prone social media empire.
The Silicon Valley giant’s whistleblower crisis last year highlighted accusations that executives prioritized growth over keeping their billions of users safe.
Scathing news reports based on internal documents leaked by ex-employee Frances Haugen rekindled long-deadlocked regulation efforts, but US lawmakers have made little progress since.
An activist group calling itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board seized on the results to warn of what may come next.
“Facebook appears to now be feeling the impact on ad revenues from Apple’s new privacy first approach,” the group’s statement said.
“This will no doubt make them more desperate to drive ad revenue by any means necessary,” it added.
Meta is betting heavily on its belief that the metaverse is the next major evolution of how humans live with the internet.
In this future that evokes science fiction, the public will use augmented reality glasses and virtual reality headsets to find their way around, work or play.
But its construction means tens of billions of dollars of investment in the Facebook Reality Labs branch, without any benefits for a long time.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty about Meta’s investments in the metaverse and if or when they will have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line,” said analyst Debra Aho Williamson.
In other news, a four-tonne chunk of a SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the Moon, according to online space junk trackers.
Boeing has sunk $450million into a flying taxi startup that hopes to whisk passengers across cities by the end of the decade.
Personalised smart guns, which can be fired only by verified users, may finally become available to U.S. consumers this year.
And, scientists are embarking on a mission to unravel the mystery behind dozens of grisly child mummies buried in an underground tomb in Sicily.
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