Updated on November 23rd, 2021 by Bob Ciura
Income investors might be reluctant to even consider buying shares of a company that does not pay a dividend.
On the other hand, capital allocation decisions are not written in stone.
While tech giant Meta Platforms, Inc. (FB)–formerly known as Facebook–does not offer a dividend today, we believe it could initiate a dividend in time.
Meta Platforms has grown so large that it is now highly profitable, with tremendous free cash flow, and a huge amount of cash on the balance sheet.
As a result, it could join many other technology stocks that have begun paying dividends to shareholders in recent years.
You can download a free spreadsheet of our entire technology stocks list (along with important financial metrics such as price-to-earnings ratios and dividend yields) by clicking on the link below:
This article will discuss Meta Platform’s business model, growth prospects, and why a dividend is not an unreasonable expectation at some point in the future.
Meta Platforms is a social media giant, with a market capitalization of ~$950 billion. Facebook is the unquestioned leader in social media.
Its family of offerings also includes Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and more.
Facebook began as many startups do, with rising revenue but a lack of profitability. However, all that changed when the company effectively monetized its massive user base.
Facebook and its various properties represent massive advertising platforms.
And, given the amount of time users spend on the site, Facebook is simply a gold mine for advertising potential. Mobile advertising revenue represents the vast majority of total advertising revenue.
Source: Earnings Presentation
The result is that Facebook is now enormously profitable.
Over the first three quarters of 2021, revenue increased 45.5% compared with the same period in 2020. Earnings-per-share increased 62.5% through the first three quarters of 2021.
Going forward, Meta Platforms announced it will reorganize its reporting segments. Beginning in the fourth quarter of 2021, the company will have two reporting segments.
First, its Family of Apps (FoA) segment will include its traditional social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and other services.
The Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) segment will include augmented and virtual reality related consumer hardware, software and content.
Facebook’s growth potential remains highly attractive. While the company is nearing saturation in the U.S.—daily active users were flat in the U.S. last quarter–overall the Facebook community continues to grow.
Daily active users were 1.93 billion on average at the end of the first quarter, an increase of 6% year-over-year.
Source: Investor Presentation
At the same time, billions of people around the world still do not use Facebook or one of its other platforms, leaving a massive global growth opportunity for the company in the years ahead.
To be sure, Meta Platforms will have to dedicate a huge amount of financial resources to obtain this growth. Indeed, 2021 capital expenditures are expected to reach $19 billion.
Next year, Meta Platforms expects capital expenditures in the range of $29 billion to $34 billion.
Meta Platform’s growth potential is amplified by the company’s massive competitive advantages. Specifically, it has come to dominate social media.
Consumers simply love social media and appear to be unwilling to do without it (evidenced by the number of daily active users who use Facebook every day and every month).
It is very difficult for another social media brand to enter the space and successfully take users away from Facebook, Instagram, or its other valuable properties.
In addition, Meta Platforms is investing in a number of new avenues for future growth, in virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the meta verse.
These are exciting areas of potential growth for the tech industry, and Meta Platforms is poised to be at the forefront of these new technologies.
Why Meta Platforms Could Pay A Dividend
There are good reasons for a company to announce a dividend.
In addition to improving investor sentiment by rewarding loyal shareholders with dividend income, initiating a dividend payout opens up a new and large group of institutional investors who manage income-oriented funds.
Income investors who previously would not have invested in a non-dividend paying stock such as Meta Platforms, would likely be enticed by a dividend payout.
Plus, Meta Platform’s fundamentals seem to support a dividend payment, as the company is highly profitable.
Based on consensus analyst estimates, Meta Platforms is expected to generate earnings-per-share of $13.96 for 2021.
The company could theoretically announce a significant dividend, while still leaving plenty of cash flow for reinvestment into growth initiatives.
For example, if Meta Platforms maintained a target payout ratio of 25% of annual EPS, the company could declare an annual dividend payout of ~$3.49 per share based on 2021 EPS estimates.
This would represent a dividend yield of ~1% based on the current share price.
While this would certainly not quality Meta Platforms as a high dividend stock, investors should not expect high yields from the technology sector.
For context, a dividend yield of 1% would give Meta Platforms a comparable yield to other dividend paying tech giants such as Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT).
And, Meta Platforms could grow its dividend at a high rate each year, particularly with a starting payout ratio of just 25% and the company’s future EPS growth potential.
Initiating a dividend would hardly impact the company’s financial position, as Meta Platforms ended the 2021 third quarter with cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities of $58.08 billion.
Meta Platforms has a current ratio (which compares short-term assets to short-term liabilities) of 4.2x, which is very high and indicates more than enough short-term liquidity.
By virtually any measure, Meta Platforms has massive financial resources and ample liquidity, certainly enough to distribute a portion of its cash flow to shareholders without jeopardizing its current financial position or future growth.
The typical reason a company chooses not to pay dividend to shareholders is that it simply does not have the financial strength to do so.
Small companies in a high-growth stage, or cyclical companies with inconsistent profitability, need to preserve as much cash flow as possible.
Related: Dividend stocks versus growth stocks.
However, Meta Platforms is clearly no longer in its start-up phase. It is a massive company and a cash flow machine.
It also has a fortress balance sheet with a huge amount of cash. Fundamentally, there is little reason for Meta Platforms to not pay a dividend. It has plenty of cash for growth investment, and then some.
Dividends have become much more commonplace in the technology sector in recent years.
Meta Platforms does not yet pay a dividend, but investors should not be completely surprised to see a dividend payout announced at some point in the coming years.
See the articles below for analysis on whether other stocks that currently don’t pay dividends, will one day pay a dividend: