Zuckerberg announces $50bn payout for Meta shareholders amid child safety concerns

Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg speaking yesterday during a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on child safety

Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg speaking yesterday during a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on child safety – Susan Walsh/AP

Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta will pay up to $50bn to shareholders after it posted record revenues, sending profits soaring by 200pc.

Revenues at the social media giant behind Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp hit more than $40bn for the three months to December. Its shares surged more than 13pc in after hours trading on Thursday night.

Quarterly profits climbed threefold to $14bn as Meta’s advertising sales staged a marked recovery after it implemented sweeping layoffs last year in a drastic effort to cut costs. Meta’s workforce shrunk by a total of 22pc, equivalent to more than 19,000 staff.

Mr Zuckerberg also announced the social network giant, which turns 20 this month, would pay its first-ever dividend as a public company of 50 cents per share – worth a total of $1.25bn. Meta said it would begin regular dividend payouts for the first time and would also buy back an additional $50bn from shareholders.

The strong results came just days after Mr Zuckerberg was accused by US senators of putting profits before users’ safety.

Emails from within Meta published ahead of a Senate hearing this week showed how Mr Zuckerberg rejected pleas from Sir Nick Clegg, the company’s head of global affairs, to hire dozens of staff to help protect children on Facebook and Instagram.

Mr Zuckerberg told investors on Thursday: “We had a good quarter as our community and business continue to grow.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on our vision for advancing AI and the metaverse.”

Meta revealed close to half the world’s population has signed up to join the social media empire, with nearly 4bn people now using at least one of its apps on a regular basis.

While politicians have threatened a crackdown on social media apps, Meta’s shares have climbed to record highs so far in 2024, up 14pc. Meta is now worth more than $1 trillion.

Separately last night, Apple revealed its first rise in sales in more than a year as demand for its latest iPhones reversed a rare losing streak.

The tech giant revealed that revenues rose by 2pc in the final three months of last year to $119.6bn while profits rose by 13pc to $34bn.

The increase reverses four consecutive quarters of falling revenues, which had been Apple’s longest losing streak since the launch of the iPod two decades ago.

It comes despite declining sales in China, where the company has faced growing questions over its business.

Shares in the company dropped slightly in after-hours trading.

Sales of the iPhone, which counts for the majority of Apple’s revenue, grew by 6pc. Its services business, which includes its App Store and software such as Apple Music and Apple Pay, grew by 11pc. Sales of the iPad fell while those of Mac computers rose slightly. Sales of accessories such as AirPods and the Apple Watch also declined.

Chief executive Tim Cook said 2.2bn Apple products were now in use around the world

The figures come as Apple prepares to release its Vision Pro headset, the most significant new product released in Mr Cook’s 13 years in charge of the company, which goes on sale on Friday in the US.

Amazon recorded its highest profit for two years amid a jump in trading over the Christmas period.

The company said sales rose by 14pc to $170bn in the fourth quarter of the year, in part due to growing sales outside the US.

Profits rose from $300m a year ago to $10.6bn. This was its strongest profit since the end of 2021, when rising Covid cases meant most consumers resorted to internet shopping.

The growth in sales puts Amazon within touching distance of overtaking Walmart as the world’s biggest retail company by revenues.

Shares rose by 6pc in after-hours trading.

The results for the Silicon Valley giants came as job cuts continued to hit the industry. Video call app Zoom cut around 150 jobs, roughly 2pc of its workforce, while security app Okta laid off 400 staff.

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