The rise of the internet has led to game-changing innovations and the growth of massive businesses. Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: META) is one such company.
The social media and digital advertising behemoth is one of the most valuable businesses in the world. And during its ascent, it has rewarded shareholders. If you were smart enough to invest $10,000 in this FAANG stock 10 years ago in February 2014, you’d be sitting on a balance of $75,900 today, good for a monster 659% gain.
Let’s look at Meta’s path to get to this point, and then consider where the company might be headed.
Riding the mobile wave
Formerly known as Facebook, Meta benefited from some key tech breakthroughs on its journey. The mainstream adoption of smartphones, coupled with faster internet connectivity, helped this business gain a huge number of users as the world shifted from PCs to mobile devices.
Between 2013 and 2023, Meta’s daily active users (across all of its apps) skyrocketed from 757 million to 3.19 billion. This means that now about 39% of the global population interacts with the company in some way each day. That’s a wild statistic.
The success of the social media apps has resulted in powerful network effects. As more users interact with each other or post more content, it makes it more compelling for new people to join. Consequently, there’s very little chance that Meta will get disrupted anytime soon.
Focused on innovation
Social media undoubtedly remains Meta’s bread and butter. But founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is always thinking of the next step. His focus over the past few years has been leaning more toward metaverse ambitions and the development of a new computing platform. This is what the Reality Labs division is working on.
So far, the results have been disappointing. In 2024, this segment posted a staggering operating loss of $16.1 billion on revenue of just $1.9 billion. There’s no reason to believe things are going to drastically improve anytime soon.
However, it makes sense that Zuckerberg is investing in this technology. He hopes to one day have a billion people spending money in the metaverse, with the ultimate goal of depending less and less on the top mobile operating systems, Apple‘s iOS and Alphabet‘s Android. If Meta controls the devices that people use to interact with the internet of tomorrow, it could prove to be a huge growth engine.
It’s anyone’s guess if the metaverse will become a moneymaker for the business one day, but luckily Meta has the financial resources to continue pushing the envelope forward in terms of innovation. This is one of the most profitable companies on the face of the planet.
Meta’s operating margin was 40% in 2021, then it contracted to 25% in 2022. Last year, Zuckerberg embarked on a “Year of Efficiency,” and so the margin expanded to 35%.
This is a cash machine. The business generated $43 billion of free cash flow last year, helping to fund ongoing share repurchases. But for the first time ever, Meta announced a $0.50 quarterly dividend payout, which would add a tiny bump to investor returns. This reinforces my belief that the company is in a very strong financial position.
Meta is clearly one of the most dominant and profitable enterprises ever. This success has rewarded shareholders along the way. But as we look toward the next decade, it’s hard to know whether, 10 years from now, the business will still rely on its popular social media apps or if the metaverse will be the main revenue driver.
However, at a current price-to-earnings ratio of 31 and a market cap of $1.2 trillion, I believe past returns aren’t likely to repeat going forward.
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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Neil Patel and his clients have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Alphabet, Apple, and Meta Platforms. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
If You’d Invested $10,000 in Meta Platforms Stock in 2014, This Is How Much You Would Have Today was originally published by The Motley Fool