Meta slashes workforce by 11,000 as it sinks more money into the metaverse

The broad job cuts, the first in Meta's 18-year history, follow thousands of layoffs at other major tech companies including  Microsoft Corp and Elon Musk-owned Twitter.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears at a  live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference last month to announce the rebranding of Facebook as Meta. (photo credit: FACEBOOK/REUTERS)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears at a live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference last month to announce the rebranding of Facebook as Meta.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK/REUTERS)

Meta Platforms Inc said on Wednesday it will let go of 13% of its workforce, or more than 11,000 employees, in one of the biggest tech layoffs this year as the Facebook parent battles soaring costs and a weak advertising market.

The broad job cuts, the first in Meta's 18-year history, follow thousands of layoffs at other major tech companies including  Microsoft Corp and Elon Musk-owned Twitter.

The pandemic boom that boosted tech companies and their valuations has turned into a bust this year in the face of decades-high inflation and rapidly rising interest rates.

"Not only has online commerce returned to prior trends, but the macroeconomic downturn, increased competition, and ads signal loss have caused our revenue to be much lower than I'd expected," Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a message to employees.

"I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that."

Mark Zuckerberg (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Mark Zuckerberg (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The company also plans to cut discretionary spending and extend its hiring freeze through the first quarter. But it did not specify the impacted regions or the expected cost savings from the moves.

It now expects 2023 expenses of as much as $100 billion, compared with up to $100 billion previously, with more of the resources being focused on areas such as artificial intelligence, ads, business platforms and the metaverse.

Pricey metaverse bet

Wall Street has been losing patience over Zuckerberg's enormous and experimental bets on his metaverse project, a shared virtual world, with one shareholder recently calling the investments "super-sized and terrifying."

Concerns over the spending spree have wiped off more than two-thirds of Meta's market value so far this year. But its shares rose 4.5% to $100.80 before the bell on Wednesday.

"The market is breathing a sigh of relief that Meta's management or Zuckerberg specifically seems to be heeding some advice, which is you need to take some of the steam out of the growing expenditure bill," Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Sophie Lund-Yates said.

She, however, added that "it does not quite tally that you're going to try and increase efficiency at the same time as chasing something as ambitious and as tenuous as the metaverse."

Meta will pay 16 weeks of base pay and two additional weeks for every year of service, as well as all remaining paid time off as part of the severance package, the company said.

Impacted employees will also receive their shares that were set to vest on Nov. 15 and healthcare coverage for six months, according to Meta.

The company did not disclose the exact charge for the layoffs, but said the figure was included in its previously announced 2022 expense outlook of between $85 billion and $87 billion.

Meta had 87,314 employees as of the end of September.