In October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced to the world that he was rebranding Facebook to Meta as the company strives for a meta universe.
Facebook | via Reuters
Meta shares held off a 20% overnight rally on a slew of analyst upgrades that came on the back of fourth-quarter earnings growth and an upbeat forecast from CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Meta shares hit their highest level since September 2022, just weeks before a disastrous third-quarter earnings report that led analysts across Wall Street to openly question Zuckerberg’s leadership. However, there was a marked change in tone in analyst notes Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with the company beating revenue estimates with revenue of $32.17 billion.
“Does META really deserve a 20% increase in the secondary market?!” – Evercore ISI analyst Mark Mahaney said. In one word, Mahaney wrote, “Yes.” He cited a “significant reduction in cost forecasts” and larger-than-expected share buybacks, raising his price target to $275 and reaffirming an outperform rating.
Rosenblatt’s Barton Crockett upgraded his Meta rating to buy, setting a $220 price target and saying he was convinced by the now “attractive” valuation. At Guggenheim, Michael Morris revised his price target to $210, maintaining a buy rating, partly citing lower costs and belief in management’s “momentum” message.
Zuckerberg’s comment was well received by analysts just months after the Meta co-founder took responsibility for laying off thousands of workers. “Our management theme for 2023 is ‘The Year of Efficiency,’ and we are focused on becoming a stronger and more agile organization,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Zuckerberg, 38, spearheaded the company’s pivot to virtual reality, investing billions in the Reality Labs Meta vertical. It’s an expensive maneuver that has earned him criticism from both analysts and activist investors, including Altimeter Capital’s Brad Gerstner, who sees the gambit as a distraction from the company’s core advertising business.
CNBC’s Michael Bloom and Jonathan Vanian contributed to this report.