Meta added over $214 billion in stock market value on Friday, with shares on track for their third biggest percentage jump since its 2012 Wall Street debut after the Facebook parent’s first dividend declaration and robust results.
Days ahead of Facebook’s 20th anniversary, Meta authorized an additional $50 billion in share repurchases and said its quarterly dividend would be 50 cents per share.
Meta’s stock shot up as much as 23% and was last up 21.7%.
While dividends are associated with mature, slow-growth companies, Meta’s is the fourth offered by the so-called “Magnificent Seven” group of Wall Street heavyweights, with its yield of 0.5% matching that of Apple, according to LSEG data.
“Paying a dividend suggests the company wants to reboot its reputation and be taken more seriously. But ultimately the amount being paid is only a token gesture,” said Dan Coatsworth, an investment analyst at AJ Bell.
The dividend plan means a hefty payout for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who owns about 350 million Meta Class A and Class B shares. The Facebook co-founder could get about $175 million every quarter.
The company flagged strong ad sales and a rebound in user growth during its fourth-quarter results on Thursday that saw its revenue surge 25%. Its forecast for current-quarter revenue also exceeded analysts’ estimates.
Surging revenue, combined with an 8% drop in costs and expenses after eliminating over 21,000 jobs since late 2022, allowed Meta to triple its net income to $14.02 billion.
“The ‘Year of Efficiency’ has paid off, with both headcount and costs dropping, and Meta exceeding our expectations for full-year 2023 ad revenue,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence.
Meta’s dividend could also make its stock more attractive to a broader swathe of investors, including exchange-traded funds focused on stocks that pay dividends.
Apple’s dividend yield is about the same as Meta’s, while Microsoft’s dividend yield is 0.7%, according to LSEG.
“This can start attracting investors who really do look for dividends and more steady income,” said Brian Jacobsen, Chief Economist at Annex Wealth Management.
The world’s biggest social media company has been spending billions of dollars over the past decade to boost its computing capacity for generative AI products it is adding to Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and to hardware devices such as its Ray-Ban smart glasses.
Meta’s shares recently traded at 21 times expected earnings, compared with a forward PE of 84 for smaller social media rival Snap, 20 for Alphabet, 41 for Amazon.com, 32 for Microsoft and 27.36 for Apple.