Oculus - Meta Platforms dark horse for 2023?

4:28 PM 25 November 2022

Meta Platforms' shares are under pressure as investors in the struggling 2022 haven't shared Mark Zuckerberg's enthusiasm around growing spending in the Metaverse space. The tough 12 months have caused 'investors to come down to earth' and worry about the scale at which the company is spending money on a still 'uncertain tomorrow', amid a weakening advertising sector, a core part of the company's revenue. Reality Labs continues to be an 'eyesore' for Zuckerberg, who has begun to see growing R&D spending as key to gaining a long-term competitive advantage in the 'new Internet.' The billionaire believes it will be virtual reality. Should this really give investors sleepless nights?

Bad 'timing'

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Meta Platforms expects multiple years of losses at a rate of $10 billion a year from its 'miracle child' i.e. the Reality Labs division, which has become an integral part of Mark Zuckerberg's long-term bet on the metaverse as the future of the Internet. According to Zuckerberg, it will take at least a decade to realize the vision/ Spending on VR technology has come at a time when advertisers are slashing their budgets and major tech companies are cutting costs, their valuations have lost ground. Despite this, Meta's management is brushing up on 'higher necessity,' one of its members in an interview with CNBC stressed that big spending on Reality Labs will continue and must be continued, a view echoed by Reality Labs Vice President Ash Jhaveri. The company recently began layoffs and wants to cut costs. However, it is unclear how much the technology division itself will be affected. Investors, including Altimeter Capital, have accused Zuckerberg of saying that Meta has 'drifted too far away into the land of plenty.' Some analysts believe that Meta will be forced to cut costs in this division as well.

Decision makers associated with Meta obviously contradict the market narrative, which sees Meta as a 'business on the brink' which we also see in the stock market valuation and the unprecedented scale of the share sell-off in 2022. Recall, however, that Facebook's user base is higher today than ever before, and apps like Instagram and WhatsApp continue to grow. An app user base of several billion is likely to make the company's revenues soar once advertisers are willing to spend more again. Meanwhile, Q3 revenue halved from Q3 2021, and margins fell while spending obviously increased. 

How does Meta see the Metaverse?

Although it sounds SciFi, Meta Platforms wants to create a virtual world where participants can experience the full sensory experience and feel as if it were real. This requires a huge amount of research and improvement of existing devices like AR headsets, Oculus Touch controllers and Oculus VR goggles. When we listen to the decision-makers at Reality Labs, we learn that this vision has also captured their minds. They talk about the next version of the Internet, which will connect people and make websites or apps a song of the past. The aforementioned vice president of Reality Labs, Jhaveri stressed that the company is building an entirely new computing platform to bring the vision to life 'and it's not cheap. Meta's vision was parroted by BlackRock Fund analysts, who issued a special report in 2021 stating that the Metaverse's existence is not subject to the questions "If and how?" but "When?

Clash of titans

Meta will face increasing competition not only in the demanding advertising market but also in technology where it faces an inevitable confrontation with Apple, which in 2023 plans to finally unveil its long-announced virtual reality headset. Meta also plans to release the Oculus Quest 3 headset next year. So far, the global VR market has been dominated by headsets from Oculus, a company acquired by Meta in 2014. The confrontation with Apple will likely show whether Meta's scale of spending really gives it the edge to remain the market leader, or at least share the market equally with the debuting Apple.

Reality Labs expects the price of virtual reality headsets to drop over time. Vice President Jhaveri compared their current prices to plasma TVs from the 2000s, which cost a 'fortune' while today their prices have dropped by more than 90%. Reality Labs also points out that at the moment the company's most advanced technology is being made available to enterprises and developers building cutting-edge solutions in platforms, only at the end will it start flowing down to consumer models. There are many indications that if both VR kit launches from Apple and Meta take place in 2023, it will be a crucial time for Meta. 

In October of this year, a partnership with Meta was announced by Microsoft. As part of Office 365 and the Teams service, Meta will co-create the 'virtual office of the future'. The Teams platform has already been integrated with the newly unveiled 'Quest Pro' headset, allowing participation in a virtual conference room.Meta Platforms (META.US) stock price chart, W1 interval. Shares of the former Facebook have seen a huge sell-off this year and have lost nearly 67% since the beginning of the year. They are currently trading at levels last seen in 2015. Source: xStation5

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