As Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has grown into a $650 billion social media giant, some people have come to view it as a corporate devil. Now the company is looking to take on the role of angel — as in angel investor.
The company is setting up a new investment fund worth millions of dollars within its experimental apps group known as the New Product Experimentation team, Axios reported last week. The team has the mission of coming up with new apps for Facebook’s 2.6 billion users around the world.
By investing in startup companies, like angel investors and venture capitalists do, Facebook will have a channel for keeping up with emerging apps and technologies.
In the past, Facebook was able to use its big bank account to acquire promising apps, like Instagram and WhatsApp. But with antitrust regulators and politicians keeping the company under close scrutiny, acquiring startups is not the appealing option that it once was for Facebook.
Is Facebook Too Big?
Some critics contend that Facebook, which has 1.66 billion daily active users, has become too big and controls too much of the social media market. Anti-tech sentiment has also been directed toward Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).
The U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and nearly all the state attorneys general have the tech companies under investigation. New York State’s antitrust investigation into Facebook has been joined by 46 states and territories.
Several times over the last few years, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has been called to testify before Congress about the company’s activities and policies.
The stakes are high. In a March report, the Morningstar research company (NASDAQ: MORN) predicted that fines and new regulations could lead to a 15% decrease in its valuation of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and an 11% drop in Facebook’s shares. That would potentially happen if the most stringent regulations were put into place.
100 Acquisitions Since 2007
Since 2007, Facebook has made about 100 acquisitions totaling an estimated $45 billion, according to FactSet.
In May, Facebook announced that it had purchased Giphy — an animated GIF company — and that deal is already coming under scrutiny by U.S. and U.K. regulators. The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority has sent an enforcement order to Facebook, putting a hold on the merger until its investigation is over, BBC News reports.
In announcing the deal, Facebook said that half of Giphy’s traffic came from Facebook apps. Giphy also provides animations to such competitors as TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter.
Politico reported last week that the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are vying to review the Giphy acquisition. But the two agencies have yet to resolve a dispute over which one of them should handle the inquiry.
In April, the social network company based in Menlo Park, California, invested $5.7 billion for a 9.99% stake in the Indian company Reliance Jio Platforms. The deal made Facebook the largest minority shareholder in the Reliance Industry telecom subsidiary.
A Telling Job Advertisement
Axios said it learned of Facebook’s investment initiative from a job advertisement for a head of investments for the New Product Experimentation team. The ad has since been taken down, but Axios quoted it as saying:
In this role you will manage a multimillion-dollar fund that invests in leading private companies alongside top venture capital firms and angel investors. You will develop investment and impact theses, lead the execution of new investments and support existing portfolio companies as needed.
Among those who will be on the investment team is Shabih Rizvi, who has worked at Google, Kleiner Perkins, and Gradient Ventures, according to news reports.
Shares of Facebook closed at $228.58 on Friday, just $0.45 lower than where it began the week. The 52-week range is $137.10 to $241.21.
Facebook has a consensus rating of Buy among 43 analysts who follow the company. That is based on 39 Buy ratings, 3 Hold ratings and 1 Sell rating. The median price target is $244.61.
Goldman Sachs repeated its Buy rating last week with a price target of $250.