A new share buyback is not likely to do the trick. Neither is research that shows a rising use of Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) among Americans. The company’s market cap is down 10% in the last month, which means that it has shed $35 billion of its market value. The drop has been attributed to management’s comments about slowing growth in 2017.
The stock dropped to $117 on Friday, below its recently posted all time high of $133.
Facebook’s latest plan:
On November 18, 2016, the Board of Directors of Facebook, Inc. (the “Company”) authorized the Company to repurchase up to $6.0 billion of its Class A common stock. The repurchase program will go into effect in the first quarter of 2017 and does not have a fixed expiration. The timing and actual number of shares repurchased will depend on a variety of factors, including price, general business and market conditions, and alternative investment opportunities.
Share buybacks are often considered a sign of weakness because they indicate a company has no other strategic use for the money. Facebook had $23 billion in cash and marketable securities.
Against the argument that slowing membership will hurt Facebook’s prospects is the fact that use of the social network, at least in the U.S., is growing. According to the Pew Research Center:
In addition to measuring the broad impact and meaning of social media, since 2012 the Center has also tracked the specific sites and platforms that users turn to in the course of living their social lives online.
In that context, a national survey of 1,520 adults conducted March 7-April 4, 2016, finds that Facebook continues to be America’s most popular social networking platform by a substantial margin: Nearly eight-in-ten online Americans 1 (79%) now use Facebook, more than double the share that uses Twitter (24%), Pinterest (31%), Instagram (32%) or LinkedIn (29%). On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all), that means that 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter.
The real question for Wall St. is what slow growth means. In the latest quarter, Facebook revenue grew to $7 billion from $4.5 billion the same period a year ago. Is that enough to maintain a $350 billion market cap? A look at slower growing Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), parent of Google, says “yes,” if a company is dominant enough in the new internet world. Facebook shareholders are not so sure.