Meta Platforms Inc. – Getting a grip on expenses February 6, 2023 549

PSR Recommendation: NEUTRAL Status: Downgraded
Target Price: 182
  •  4Q22 revenue beat expectations by 3%, with adj. earnings (excl. US$4.2bn restructuring charges) beating by 58%. FY22 revenue/adj. PATMI at 101%/114% of our FY22e forecasts.
  •  Committed to streamlining costs moving forward, and focusing on improving efficiencies with AI. FY23e total expense guidance reduced by US$5bn, 5% YoY growth.
  • Digital advertising outlook weak, Meta guided 1Q23e revenue contraction of -2% YoY.
  • We downgrade to NEUTRAL with a raised DCF target price of US$182.00 (prev. US$113.00) to account for an expected 9% increase in EBITDA margins over the next 2 years due to a sharp reduction in expenses. We cut FY23e revenue by 13% on continued uncertainty in digital advertising demand, but also reduce FY23e CAPEX by 15%, and total expenses by 9% to reflect a slowdown in expenses. As a result, FY23e net margin is reduced to 22% (FY22: 20%). We reduce our WACC to 7.1% to account for an increase in debt in relation to equity, and maintain our terminal growth rate of 3.5%.

The Positives

+ Revenue beat expectations on higher holiday ad sales, continued user growth. 4Q22 revenue came in at US$32.2bn, 3% above our forecasts, but still representing a decline of 4% YoY. Revenue was driven by a 23% increase in ad impressions, and strong YoY growth in the travel and healthcare verticals. Active users on Meta’s family of apps continued to grow steadily, increasing 4% YoY to 3.74bn.


+ Laser focused on controlling expenses moving forward. As mentioned during its previous 3Q22 earnings call, Meta remains fully committed to streamlining costs moving forward as it transitions from a phase of hyper growth into a phase of maturation and efficiency. The company plans on: 1) reducing CAPEX by improving its data centre architecture to be more flexible and cost effective; 2) slowing headcount growth as it looks to lean out its management layers; and 3) leveraging AI to increase efficiency and monetization of its products. The expected reduction in expenses should provide an immediate respite to the company’s shrinking margins. 4Q22 total expenses was US$26bn, a 22% YoY increase. Guidance for FY23e total expenses was reduced by 5% to a range of US$89bn-95bn, with FY23e CAPEX reduced by 12% to US$30bn-33bn.


The Negative

– Near-term digital advertising demand expected to remain weak. Meta guided 1Q23e revenue to be in the range of US$26bn-28.5bn – approx. -2% YoY contraction, indicating continued expected weakness in digital advertising demand. FX is also expected to be about a 2% YoY headwind. However, we do expect growth to expand throughout the year as Reels monetization and advertising performance continues to improve.

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Jonathan Woo
Research Analyst

Jonathan covers the US technology sector focusing on internet companies. Formerly a national and professional athlete, he graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences.

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