The second quarter was as bad as Meta Platforms Inc. executives feared, and the third quarter is expected to be worse.
reported its first-ever year-over-year decline in revenue on Wednesday, and profit declined for a third consecutive quarter, the first time that has happened since Facebook’s first year as a public company, in 2012. Shares declined more than 4% in after-hours trading following the release of the results, continuing a downward trajectory for the social-media company’s shares.
The parent company of Facebook reported second-quarter earnings of $6.69 billion, or $2.46 a share, down from $3.61 a share last year, on sales of $28.82 billion, down from $29.08 billion a year ago. Both results missed the average forecast for profit of $2.54 a share and sales of $28.9 billion, according to analysts polled by FactSet.
The downfall is expected to get worse. Meta executives issued a third-quarter revenue forecast of $26 billion to $28.5 billion, while analysts were forecasting $30.36 billion. Facebook reported revenue of $29.01 billion in the third quarter last year.
“We seem to have entered an economic downturn that will have a broad impact on the digital advertising business,” Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call after the results were dropped. “And it’s always hard to predict how deep or how long these cycles will be. But I’d say that the situation seems worse than it did a quarter ago.”
He said the company plans to “steadily reduce headcount growth over the next year” and “get more done with fewer resources.”
Tellingly, Zuckerberg added that artificial intelligence-driven recommendations from accounts that aren’t followed comprised just 15% in Facebook and a “little more” in Instagram. That percentage, he said, will more than double by the end of 2023.
Facebook also announced that longtime Chief Financial Officer David Wehner will transition to a new role as chief strategy officer. Susan Li, Meta’s vice president of finance, will take over the CFO role.
Facebook executives have blamed inflation, a decline in ad sales, the war in Ukraine, supply-chain issues, increased competition from services such as TikTok, and — most significantly — wrenching changes Apple Inc.
made to its mobile operating system that make it more difficult for apps to track consumers in ads.
“Gone are the days of pure Facebook dominance as they will likely have to share a fraction of the spotlight (at least) with TikTok, Snap, Reddit
and others,” Avi Ben-Zvi, vice president of paid social at performance marketing firm Tinuiti, told MarketWatch.
“Facebook’s awful quarter and weak outlook further underline the view that advertisers have been cutting back on spending as the overall economy battles with inflation, higher interest rates and shifting consumer patterns,” Investing.com senior analyst Jesse Cohen said. “Looking ahead, Facebook still has to figure out how to deal with Apple’s new privacy approach that limits tracking users as well as the growing popularity of TikTok. In addition to the plethora of headwinds the company is facing, investors now need to worry about the negative impact of potential regulatory actions by the U.S. government.”
Earlier Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission, citing unfair competition, sued to block Meta from buying virtual-reality firm Within Unlimited. Meta’s legal team called the lawsuit “wrong on the facts and the law” in a blog post.
The dire results landed with a thud after light results from Google parent Alphabet Inc.
on Tuesday, deepening concerns that ad-dependent internet companies face a long patch because of a war raging in Ukraine and inflation burning through the pocketbooks of consumers. Last week, shares of Snap Inc.
and Twitter Inc.
nosedived after they reported weak results.
Read more: Google stock rises despite an ad downturn, second straight earnings decline
Zuckerberg’s warning of an economic tsunaminearly a month ago will likely lead to fewer hires and cost cutting, the company reiterated in an email message on Tuesday.
“Any company that wants to have a lasting impact must practice disciplined prioritization and work with a high level of intensity to reach goals,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement to MarketWatch. “The reports about these efforts are consistent with this focus and what we’ve already shared publicly about our operating style.”
How Meta fares in the near future rests in large part on its audience, which establishes advertising rates and frequency. Daily active users, or DAUs, a crucial metric for Meta’s growth globally, increased 4% to 2.88 billion, topping analyst expectations of 1.96 billion and returning to growth after the first-ever decline in that metric last quarter.
“Zuckerberg did a good job of lowering expectations,” Lindsey Bell, chief markets and money strategist at Ally Invest, told MarketWatch. Facebook’s higher ROI, she added, has made it and Google “somewhat insulated” to the same market conditions that have gashed Snap and Twitter.
Still, Meta’s stock has been among the worst in tech this year, plummeting 50% so far, while the broader S&P 500 index
has retreated 17% in 2022.