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Global Economy

Spectacular fall in price: Shares in Facebook parent Meta collapse

The shares of the Facebook parent company Meta fell by a spectacular 23 percent on Wednesday. One reason: For the first time in its history, Facebook hardly gained any new users in the past quarter, while the competition, especially Tiktok, is growing. However, that is not the only problem of the Zuckerberg empire.

    The shares of the Facebook parent company Meta collapsed by a spectacular 23 percent on Wednesday. One reason: For the first time in its history, Facebook hardly gained any new users in the past quarter, while the competition, especially Tiktok, is growing. That's not the only problem with the Zuckerberg empire, however.

Facebook has a Tiktok problem: The world's largest online network hardly gained any new users in the past quarter. The number of daily active members even dropped by around one million within three months. In terms of monthly activity, there was a meager increase of two million by Facebook standards. Together with the disappointment about the sales forecast for the current quarter, the numbers drove investors to flee: The shares of the umbrella group Meta lost almost 23 percent in a spectacular fall in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

Founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg expressly referred to competition from the video app Tiktok, among others. "People have a lot of choices about how they want to spend their time – and apps like Tiktok are growing very quickly," he said in a conference call with analysts. The 37-year-old set the direction for his platform to focus even more on short videos from now on.

Reels is designed to compete with Tiktok

The group developed its own Tiktok counter Reels for this purpose. The new focus will initially put pressure on the proceeds, admitted Zuckerberg. Because Reels ads are less lucrative than, for example, the space in the user's news feed. But this is the right step for the platform in the long run.

The abrupt activity brake hit all areas. A drop in daily active users from 1.93 billion to 1.929 billion may not seem like a big deal. But in the previous quarter, the value had increased by 22 million – and by 30 million in the second quarter of 2021. Facebook also missed the expectations of analysts, who had assumed 1.95 billion daily active users.

The Facebook group Meta also counts how many users use at least one of its apps – including WhatsApp and Instagram. With an increase of ten million to 2.82 billion daily, growth was also unusually low here. In the previous quarter, 50 million had been added.

Facebook shareholders are spoiled

During the corona pandemic, Facebook spoiled investors with lavish growth rates. This is another reason why the forecast of 27 to 29 billion dollars (23.9 to 25.6 billion euros) in sales in the current quarter hit particularly hard. Because it means that year-over-year revenue may grow by a paltry three percent.

As justification, the group once again referred to Apple's measures for more privacy on the iPhone, which have been slowing down Facebook business for months. CFO Dave Wehner said Meta expects that this will push consolidated sales by $10 billion this year.

App providers like Facebook have had to ask iPhone users since last year if they can track their behavior across different services and websites for advertising purposes. Very many iPhone customers rejected this.

Data protection makes personalized advertising difficult

This makes it difficult for Facebook to tailor ads to individual users. However, the central business model of the group is to show ads exactly to the target groups desired by advertising customers. With iPhone users saying no to tracking, it became more difficult for the group to both collect information about user interests and measure the success of advertising campaigns.

The words of the chief financial officer also gave the impression that Meta was exploring the possibility of a complaint about unfair competition. The restrictions are tailored to apps, while in the web browser, for example, search engines still have access to more information for the personalization of advertising, Wehner criticized.

Virtual reality business not yet profitable

"We think Google's search ads business may have benefited compared to services like ours," he said. And the billions that Apple gets from Google each year are an incentive to continue this "discrepancy." Google pays to be the default search engine in Apple's Safari web browser. Users can change the search engine at any time.

Meta also released more detailed figures on its virtual reality business for the first time. Over time, this should create the digital world Metaverse, in which Zuckerberg sees the distant future of the group. In the most recent quarter, Reality Labs revenue increased to $837 million from $717 million year over year.

Despite everything, Meta makes billions in profit

At the same time, the operating loss rose from around 2.1 to 3.3 billion dollars. Over the past year, the division accumulated red numbers of more than ten billion dollars, including for research and development. And CFO Wehner promised that spending will continue to rise this year.

Meanwhile, consolidated sales grew by a fifth year-on-year in the past quarter to just under $33.7 billion (around €29.8 billion). The bottom line is that profits fell by eight percent to almost 10.3 billion dollars. (dpa/mcf)

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