Meta stock jumps 20% on solid earnings, stock buyback, and dividend plan

Meta Platforms (META) stock rocketed higher on Friday, climbing more than 20% after the company posted better-than-expected earnings and guidance and announced new shareholder return initiatives.

With Friday’s rally, the company was on pace to add more than $200 billion to its market cap, which would be a stock market record, according to Bloomberg data. Meta shares were trading around $475 on Friday; at its lows in 2022, the stock fell to as low as $90.

Meta’s market cap now stands north of $1.2 trillion.

For the fourth quarter, Meta reported adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $5.33 on revenue of $40.11 billion. Analysts were anticipating adjusted EPS of $4.94 on revenue of $39.01 billion, according to Bloomberg consensus data. The company reported revenue of $32.2 billion in the same quarter last year.

The company also boosted its stock buyback authorization by $50 billion and initiated a quarterly dividend of $0.50 per share. In the current quarter, Meta said it anticipates revenue of between $34.6 billion-$37 billion, surpassing analysts’ expectations for revenues to tally $33.6 billion.

Meta’s advertising revenue came in at $38.7 billion in the fourth quarter, beating expectations for $37.8 billion. The company also reported 2.11 billion Facebook daily active users. Wall Street was anticipating 2.07 billion.

The company reported ad impressions rose 21% over last year during the period while the average price per ad fell 2%.

Meta’s Reality Labs, however, continues to be a burden on the company. The division, which is tasked with turning Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse into a reality, lost another $4.65 billion, up from the $4.3 billion the company lost on the endeavor in the same period last year. Still, the division beat expectations on revenue, topping $1.07 billion versus an anticipated $812 million.

The launch of Apple’s rival Vision Pro headset could create a jump in consumer interest in AR/VR headsets and generate a knock-on effect for Meta’s Quest line of headsets.

But Meta’s Reality Labs efforts have taken a backseat in the minds of investors amid increased investments in generative AI. In January, Zuckerberg announced in an Instagram Reels post that the company’s long-term strategy was to develop general artificial intelligence and make it open source.

There’s no single definition of generative AI, but broadly speaking, it’s a kind of AI that can think and learn like a human. In other words, it’s capable of understanding a multitude of concepts rather than specializing in a certain field.

Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the Meta Connect event at Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on September 27, 2023. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images) (JOSH EDELSON via Getty Images)

In 2024, Meta expects its expenses to total $94 billion-$99 billion, with the company noting, among other things, that payroll costs will rise this year as it adds more staff in higher-cost, technical roles amid its push into AI features.

Meta also disclosed that in 2023 restructuring charges, including severance and facilities consolidation, totaled $3.45 billion. The company’s headcount as of Dec. 31, 2023, stood at 67,317, down 22% over the prior year.

Meta has been on a hot streak over the last 12 months, with shares rocketing 121% over that period and outperforming the likes of Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Amazon (AMZN).

In January, the company’s market capitalization once again eclipsed the $1 trillion mark.

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Daniel Howley is the tech editor at Yahoo Finance. He’s been covering the tech industry since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @DanielHowley.

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