Uh oh. Big Tech was cut in two on Wednesday, divided between companies that have great data and those that don’t, after Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O) posted disastrous quarterly results, blaming privacy safeguards from Apple (AAPL.O) that made it tougher for advertisers.
A day earlier, Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) posted a startlingly strong quarter, thanks to bumper sales of advertising that uses its Google’s search data to target ads.
“It’s two-tiered,” said Gene Munster of investment firm Loup Ventures, who called Apple’s devices and Google’s search service foundations of the internet. “Facebook continues to see that impact of what it means to be built on top of Apple,” he said, noting that Apple’s privacy changes have had a bigger impact on Facebook than he expected.
Meta’s revenue and forecast misses sent the social media company’s shares down 20 per cent in after-hours trade on Wednesday, upending a sector-wide positive outlook on the results from Apple and Alphabet.
The after-hours slump in Meta shares vaporized $200 billion worth of its market value, and peers Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), Snap Inc (SNAP.N) and Pinterest Inc (PINS.N) saw $15 billion in lost value.
“People may have enjoyed a false sense of security following Alphabet’s/Google’s very healthy and strong Q4 results,” said Scott Kessler of Third Bridge. Apple’s change to its operations system in the middle of last year, said, would hit much of the mobile advertising world in 2022.
Apple allowed users to block some tracking of their internet use, which has made it harder for brands to target and measure their ads on Facebook and Instagram, which is also owned by Meta. Meta CFO David Wehner said on a conference call with analysts that the impact from Apple’s privacy changes could be “in the order of $10 billion” for 2022.
While Meta said macroeconomic issues like supply-chain disruptions and inflation contributed to the earnings miss, factors which could have far-reaching effects, analysts and investors focused their punishment on social media.
“It really depends on the company within tech right now,” said analyst Ryan Reith of IDC, referring to high competition across services, hardware and advertising. “When you have such strong growth in a handful of tech sectors many will win and many will lose, and there will be continued volatility within.”
Meta CFO Wehner suggested that Apple’s relationship with Google was also an issue for Facebook. “Given that Apple continues to take billions of dollars a year from Google Search ads, the incentive clearly exists for this policy discrepancy to continue.”
Meta is investing heavily in the metaverse, which merges the real world and virtual world for work and play, and the tech giant pointed to competition as a challenge for it in the last quarter.
Meta’s results came after two weeks of positive outlooks from Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft (MSFT.O), and Advanced Micro Devices Inc (AMD.O), which instilled investor confidence in sector growth prospects.
“I don’t think it turns around the current relief rally we are seeing in the tech space,” said analyst Robert Pavlik of Dakota Wealth Management, after Meta’s results. But there could be an impact on some advertising-supported companies, he said.