Meta's paying dividends for the first time ever and it's meant a $700 million pay rise for Mark Zuckerberg



The year 2024 is off to a good start for Mark Zuckerberg, and the rest of it looks like it will be just as sweet courtesy of a dividend payout of $700 million across the next four quarters.

On Meta’s earning call this week, chief financial officer Susan Li confirmed a regular dividend would now be paid out to shareholders each quarter subject to board approval and market conditions.

Li explained Meta was keen to return capital to shareholders while maintaining investment in the company, which it has typically achieved via share buybacks. However as well as announcing buybacks—to the tune of $20 billion for full year of 2023—Li added the company wanted to “modestly evolve” its return to shareholders.

For CEO Zuckerberg, who holds some 350 million shares in the Big Tech giant according to Bloomberg, a 50-cent-per Class A and B stock dividend means a payout in the region of $175 million per quarter from March onwards.

Some simple math spits out an eye-watering figure, with Zuckerberg set to rake in $700 million across the year should the dividend level stay at 50 cents.

However the good news for Zuckerberg’s fortunes don’t stop there. The father-of-three, estimated by Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index to be worth $142 billion, is also getting further boosts courtesy of the company’s strong share price.

In the past year alone Meta’s share price has rocketed more than 100% to sit close to $400 at the time of writing.

And Wall Street could be set to boost it further, as analysts were buoyed by the group’s earnings call on Feb. 1. Zuckerberg kicked off the call by feeding back on the results of his “year of efficiency”, which included layoffs and hiring freezes.

Zuckerberg told analysts on the call that Meta had achieved the level of efficiency it had aimed for—the business’s headcount is down 22% compared to a year ago, now at just over 67,000—adding: “Being a leaner company is helping us execute better and faster, and we will continue to carry these values forward as a permanent part of how we operate.”

AI … AI … AI …

But everyone’s new favorite buzzword also had the desired effect on share price. The phrase “AI” was used more than 80 times by Meta staffers on the call—a move that has proved something of a sure-fire way to pique the interests of investors.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, for example, saw his wealth spike by $2 billion last spring after Microsoft mentioned artificial intelligence more than 50 times on its earnings call.

Courtesy of the positive picture Zuckerberg and his team had for analysts—and the clear show of focus on the emerging technology—Meta’s share price shot up in the hours following the announcement, boosting it by 14% in this year to date.

Outside of AI excitement, Meta posted a 25% increase in revenue compared to the same period the previous year, up to $40.11 billion compared to $32.1 billion for Q4 2022. This resulted in a 16% full-year increase from the prior 12 months, up to $134.9 billion from $116.6 billion.

Despite the rise of rival social media apps like TikTok, daily active users across Meta platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Threads were up 8% year-on-year, with ad impressions up 28%.

A further boon for investors is the authorization of yet more share buybacks—potentially upping the price of the stocks further—with the company announcing a further $50 billion repurchase authorization.

Meta did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

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