UPDATE with closing price. Facebook stock fell 19% to $176.26 today, wiping out some $120 billion in wealth less than 24 hours after shares had hit a record high.
The dollar value of the loss was the largest ever by a publicly traded company in the U.S.
Investors lashed out at the stock after digesting the company’s weak financial forecast and middling second-quarter numbers delivered after the closing bell yesterday.
Another irritant is the perception that executives were less than forthright during a conference call yesterday to discuss the quarterly results. There has been a cascading series of scandals and mishaps involving customer data and content oversight on the platform, leading to harsh criticism. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg went on an apology tour and testified before Congress and British Parliament regarding the company’s practices.
Wall Street, though, had largely looked past the issues, preferring to focus on the company’s rapacious appetite for growth. The financial figures fell short of estimates, prompting the run of profit-taking.
One activist investment firm, Trillium Asset Management, called for Zuckerberg to be replaced as board chairman, and replaced with an independent director — a sign of investor interest in greater oversight.
Zuckerberg controls about 60% of Facebook’s voting shares, so the proposed change would represent only a limited check on his power, notes Trillium in a new shareholder proposal submitted on June 29 that would be voted on during the 2019 annual meeting.
“We believe this lack of independent board Chair and oversight has contributed to Facebook missing, or mishandling, a number of severe controversies, increasing risk exposure and costs to shareholders,” Trillium argues.
Facebook has come under harsh scrutiny for its handing of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal and criticisms of its content policies, especially in places like Sri Lanka and Myanmar, where posts contributed to violence, and its efforts to tamp down the spread of misinformation on the platform.
Media analyst Michael Nathanson raised the possibility of Facebook engaging in “a very public act of self-immolation” to stave off regulation, both in the U.S. and in Europe, which just imposed tougher new privacy rules.
“While Facebook has been warning of an advertising slowdown for the past year and a half, over that time, revenue growth has been driven by pricing power from superior Return On Investment. We think that continues over time,” Nathanson wrote in a morning analyst note. “Call us cynical, the shot-out that GDPR can be blamed for slower forward growth may be seen in Brussels as a sign that their work is done.”
Nathanson also voiced concerns about Facebook’s next act, once its namesake social media platform and Instagram are fully built out.
There remain many bulls, though. Rich Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG, issued a report titled “Facebook’s Death Has Been Greatly Exaggerated (By Facebook).” In it, he argues that the company is essentially playing possum and should not be underestimated by traditional media rivals.
“We are happy to inform legacy media executives that they should not be rejoicing – they should be afraid, very afraid,” he wrote. “Facebook is actively choosing to make less money, deprioritizing near-term monetization to drive engagement to even higher levels to capture even more of their 2.5 billion monthly users’ time and attention.”
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.