Meta profits above expectations as buybacks, dividends, and forecasts boost shares.

After the bell on Thursday, social media behemoth Meta Platforms (META) disclosed fourth quarter profits that topped analyst projections on the top and bottom lines, with a positive outlook for the quarter and new shareholder return efforts.

Meta's fourth-quarter adjusted EPS was $5.33 on $40.11 billion in sales. Bloomberg average predicted $4.94 adjusted EPS on $39.01 billion in sales. Last quarter, the corporation earned $32.2 billion.

It also increased its stock repurchase authorization by $50 billion and started a $0.50 quarterly dividend. Meta expects revenue of $34.6 billion to $37 billion this quarter, above analysts' projections of $33.6 billion.

Meta shares rose almost 12% after hours on Thursday after the announcement. Meta exceeded expectations with $38.7 billion in fourth-quarter advertising sales. Facebook claimed 2.11 billion daily active users. Wall Street predicted 2.07 billion.

The average ad price declined 2% while ad impressions surged 21% over previous year. The corporation still struggles with Meta's Reality Labs. The division, which is responsible for implementing Zuckerberg's metaverse vision, lost $4.65 billion, up from $4.3 billion last year. The segment exceeded revenue projections with $1.07 billion vs $812 million.

The arrival of Apple's Vision Pro headset should boost customer interest in AR/VR headsets and Meta's Quest range. Investors have prioritized generative AI above Meta's Reality Labs. In an Instagram Reels post in January, Zuckerberg stated the company's long-term goal of developing open-source general AI.

Generative AI can think and learn like humans, but its definition is vague. Thus, it can comprehend several ideas rather than a single one. Meta forecasts its spending to hit $94 billion-$99 billion in 2024, with labor costs rising as it hires more technical staff for its AI drive.

Meta reported $3.45 billion in 2023 restructuring expenses, including severance and facility consolidation. On Dec. 31, 2023, the corporation had 67,317 employees, down 22% from the year before.

Meta shares have risen 121% in the past year, outpacing Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Amazon (AMZN). The company's market valuation exceeded $1 trillion again in January.