Meta forecasts higher AI spending and weaker revenue

By Thomson Reuters Apr 24, 2024 | 3:11 PM

By Katie Paul and Yuvraj Malik

(Reuters) – Meta Platforms disappointed investors on Wednesday with forecasts of higher expenses and lighter than expected revenue, sending its shares tumbling as it races to catch up in AI.

Shares of the Facebook and Instagram parent dropped about 13% in extended trade following the report, evaporating $160 billion worth of stock market value. Alphabet shares fell 2% and Snap shares fell more than 5%.

Meta said it expects April-June revenue in the range of $36.5 billion-$39 billion, with a midpoint of $37.8 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of $38.3 billion, according to LSEG data.

The company raised its forecast for expenses this year to support investments in new AI products and the computing infrastructure needed to support them.

It expects 2024 capital expenditure to fall within a range of $30 billion-$40 billion, up from its earlier forecast of $35 billion to $37 billion, it said. It also raised its total expense forecast to $96 billion-$99 billion, from $94 billion to $99 billion.

The results appeared to temper expectations for Meta’s artificial-intelligence investments after a series of smash-hit quarters for the social media giant. Meta enjoyed the biggest one-day gain in market capitalization in Wall Street history after its last quarterly report, when it posted robust results and announced a first-ever dividend.

The company has been updating its ad-buying products with AI tools and short video formats to boost revenue growth, while also introducing new AI features like a chat assistant to drive engagement on its social media properties.

It announced last week that it is giving its Meta AI assistant more prominent billing across its suite of apps, meaning it will start to see how popular the product is with users in the second quarter.

“For all Meta’s bold AI plans, it can’t afford to take its eye off the nucleus of the business – its core advertising activities,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

The company also benefits from regulatory pressures bearing down on its Chinese-owned short video competitor TikTok, which is facing the threat of a U.S. ban.

Meta posted first-quarter revenue of $36.5 billion, roughly in line with expectations of $36.2 billion, according to LSEG data.

Meta’s daily active people (DAP), a metric it uses to track unique users of any one of its apps Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp in a day, grew 7%.

DAP grew 8% in the preceding quarter.

Meta disclosed only the DAP figure for user growth, a first for the company. It said earlier this year that it would no longer break out numbers for flagship social network Facebook, whose growth has slowed in recent years.

(Reporting by Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in New York; Additional reporting by Noel Randewich in Oakland, California, and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Kenneth Li and Matthew Lewis)