Why Wall Street has soured on Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

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Wall Street analysts are bearish on Facebook’s parent company Meta as the social network continues to hemorrhage users migrating to upstart rival TikTok.

“I’m not sure there’s a core business that works anymore at Facebook,” Needham analyst Laura Martin told CNBC on Friday.

While Facebook maintains a dominant position in the mobile advertising market, serious questions have been raised as to whether it can continue to grow — particularly in the face of fierce competition from ByteDance’s TikTok.

“I don’t see it spiraling in terms of cash flows in the next few years, but I’m just worried that they’re not winning the next generation,” Jeremy Bondy, the CEO of app marketing firm Liftoff, told CNBC.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday told his employees that Meta has instituted a hiring freeze due to fierce economic headwinds that have rattled the entire technology sector.

“I had hoped the economy would have more clearly stabilized by now, but from what we’re seeing it doesn’t yet seem like it has, so we want to plan somewhat conservatively,” Zuckerberg was quoted by Bloomberg News as telling his charges.

The CEO noted that during the first 18 years of Facebook’s existence, the company saw rapid growth. But sales and revenue figures from recent quarters have flatlined, according to Zuckerberg.

At its peak, Meta’s stock price approached $380 per share. But in the last year, the company share price has shed some 60% of its value.

Meta’s stock price has dipped some 60% since last year.
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Meta stock was trading up more than 3% as of 11:30 a.m. Friday.

CNBC quoted analysts as wondering whether Meta’s stock is in a “death spiral.”

Martin told CNBC that Zuckerberg is taking a risky bet by de-emphasizing Facebook’s bread-and-butter moneymaker, the news feed, in favor of Reels.

“He wouldn’t be hurting its revenue at the same time he needs more money, unless he felt like the core business wasn’t strong enough to stand alone,” Martin said.

“He must feel he has to try to move his viewership to Reels to compete with TikTok.”

Facebook has nearly 3 billion active users, compared with about 1 billion for the surging TikTok.

Analysts told CNBC that Zuckerberg is struggling to rehabilitate his company’s reputation, which has taken a hit in recent years due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal as well as a whistleblower’s claims that it ignored its own engineers’ warnings that its products were doing harm to young children.

Zuckerberg this week announced a hiring freeze at Meta.
Zuckerberg this week announced a hiring freeze at Meta.
AP

Zuckerberg is not “coming across as a leader who is serious about changing his culture and about changing himself and about kind of creating a company that will be able to step into the future that he’s envisioning,” according to Denise Lee Yohn, a branding expert and author.

“I think the company still suffers from a lot of criticism and skepticism about whether they are a force for good or evil,” she said.

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