Meta earnings better than expected after belt tightening

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook-parent Meta on Wednesday (April 26) reported it made a profit of US$5.7 billion (RM25.4 billion) in the first quarter of this year, beating forecasts after a massive wave of cost-cutting and layoffs.

The profit came on revenue of US$28.6 billion and as the number of people using Facebook every month grew to just shy of three billion, an earnings report showed.

“We had a good quarter and our community continues to grow,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Meta founder and CEO.

“We’re also becoming more efficient so we can build better products faster and put ourselves in a stronger position to deliver our long term vision.”

Zuckerberg, who has called 2023 the “year of efficiency”, added that artificial intelligence being used at Meta is “driving good results” across its business.

Meta shares were up nearly 10% to US$239 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures.

Meta said the number of ads shown across its “family of apps” that includes Instagram increased 26% from the same period a year earlier, but the average price per ad slipped.

The tech titan ended March with its headcount of employees down to 77,114, with more staffing cuts in the works, the company reported.

Facebook has taken the most aggressive track among US big tech firms to downsize its staff and has slashed almost a quarter of its global workforce, more than 20,000 jobs in just a few months.

“The year of efficiency is off to a stronger than expected start for Meta,” said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

“In this economic environment – and after the disaster that was 2022 – 3% year over year revenue growth is an accomplishment,” she added.

Meta had suffered a rough 2022 amid a souring economic climate, which forced advertisers to cut back on marketing, and Apple’s data privacy changes, which have reduced leeway for ad personalisation.

Zuckerberg has referred to last year as “a humbling wake-up call” and said it would be wise to “prepare ourselves for the possibility that this new economic reality will continue for many years.”

The company is also under pressure for making a huge gamble on the metaverse, the world of virtual reality that Meta believes will be the next frontier online.

This has so far proved to be a bad bet with customers so far unenthused by the technology and artificial intelligence, as epitomized by Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, grabbing the attention.

Meta’s Reality Labs, the division underpinning its Metaverse ambitions, reported an operating loss of nearly US$4 billion, a cash bleed that will rattle investors. – AFP