Meta’s US$677b rout boots it out of world’s top 20 stocks

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 Meta Platforms shareholders are paying dearly for its spending on the metaverse: The Facebook parent's market value has collapsed by a whopping US$677 billion this year, forcing it out from the ranks of the world's 20 largest companies.

The punishment shows no signs of easing anytime soon. Meta's stock is down as much as 25 per cent after it spooked investors with ballooning costs to fund its version of virtual reality and a decline in revenue. 

Meta was the sixth biggest US company by market capitalisation at the start of the year, flirting with a US$1 trillion market value. Fast forward 10 months and the stock will be worth about US$258 billion, ranking it 26th. Its market value is now smaller than companies including Chevron, Eli Lilly & Co and Procter & Gamble.

Once a Wall Street darling, Meta is gradually losing favour with brokerages. At least three investment banks - Morgan Stanley, Cowen and KeyBanc Capital Markets - cut their rating on the stock after the company gave a disappointing quarterly revenue outlook.

"Meta remains too aggressive with its investments in long-term initiatives despite a sharp deceleration in expected revenue growth," said Mandeep Singh, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "The company's opex and capex view for 2023 is surprising, given the lack of traction so far with its metaverse efforts." 

While Thursday's premarket slump is a big move, it pales in comparison to its record-setting rout in February when it plunged 26 per cent on the back of woeful earnings results, and erased about US$251 billion in market value. That's the biggest wipeout in market value for any US company ever. 

The decline in the stock this year has attracted value investors, who buy beaten-down stocks in anticipation of a turnaround. But there's no sign of those bets paying off any time soon. 

Meta announced its shift to investing in virtual reality a year ago, along with a name change of the company from Facebook to Meta Platforms. The company said on Wednesday it expects total expenses for this year to be US$85 billion to US$87 billion. 

For 2023, that number will grow to an expected US$96 billion to US$101 billion. That's the big negative, since investors were hoping Meta would aggressively cut costs, said Neil Campling, an analyst at Mirabaud Securities. 

The company's quarterly capital expenditure was more than all but 16 of the S&P 500 companies spent all of last year, according to Bloomberg data. 

Campling likened a buillish trade in Meta to IBM in 2005, saying "like IBM symbolizes dinosaur tech 1.0… so Meta faces the risk of being the next-generation fossil."BLOOMBERG

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