Meta Stock Surges As Company Beats Earnings Expectations

Coming off a red-hot year for Meta stock, it appears the social media giant has again delivered what investors are looking for. Shares of Meta Platforms (META) surged late Thursday after the company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and announced plans for its first-ever dividend.

The Facebook and Instagram parent company said it earned $5.33 per share on sales of $40.1 billion for the December-ending quarter. Analysts projected the company would post earnings of $4.82 per share on $39.1 billion in sales, according to FactSet.

Sales for the quarter increased 25% year over year, while earnings increased 203%. 

Further, Meta said it is initiating a dividend of 50 cents per share of common stock, payable on March 26 to shareholders on record as of Feb. 22.

For the current quarter, Meta projected sales between $34.5 billion and $37 billion. Heading into the report, analysts were looking for $33.9 billion in Meta sales for the March quarter, according to FactSet.

On the stock market today, Meta stock rocketed more than 14% higher to 450.42 in after-hours trading.

“We had a good quarter as our community and business continue to grow,” Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a news release. “We’ve made a lot of progress on our vision for advancing AI and the metaverse.”

Meta Q4 By The Numbers

Monthly active users for Facebook grew 3% year over year to 3.07 billion, Meta said.

As is typical, digital advertising sales drove nearly all of Meta’s revenue. The company recorded $38.7 billion in ad sales for the quarter, up 24% from the same period last year.

However, the metaverse-focused Reality Labs division surpassed $1 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time. Meta launched sales for its latest virtual-reality headset last fall. Still, the division posted a loss of $4.6 billion, adding to the huge losses from the company’s metaverse bets. On the other hand, Meta’s Family of Apps generated a $21 billion income in the quarter, compared to $10.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022. The Family of Apps includes Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Reels and Threads.

Meta ended 2023 with 67,317 employees, the company said, down 22% from the start of the year. Meta made significant cuts as part of what Zuckerberg called a “Year of Efficiency.”

Meta Stock: Up 14% This Year

Prior to the report, Meta stock gained 1.2% in Thursday trading to close at 394.78. Meta shares have gained 14% since the start of the year, not counting Thursday’s after-hours movement. That has helped build off a 194% surge last year.

In January, Meta reached a market capitalization over $1 trillion, rejoining an exclusive club of tech giants.

Meanwhile, Meta Platforms is on the IBD 50 list of top growth stocks. It’s also on the leaders list of the IBD Leaderboard premium stock-ideas service. IBD Stock Checkup shows Meta with a Relative Strength Rating of 96 as of Thursday, indicating it has outperformed 96% of all stocks in the past 12 months.

Meta also boasts a highest-possible 99 IBD Composite Rating, which reflects strength across a number of technical and fundamental metrics linked to strong stock performance.

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