Facebook rallies after Zuckerberg downplays risk of Apple policy

Ryan Vlastelica

Facebook Inc. shares rallied on Friday, with the stock extending a recent advance after Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg downplayed the risk that the social-media company could see as a result of an upcoming change to Apple Inc.’s privacy policies.

“I’m confident that we’re gonna be able to manage through that situation,” he said in an interview on Josh Constine’s PressClub Clubhouse room. “We’ll be in a good position. I think it’s possible that we may even be in a stronger position.”

In this Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about "News Tab" at the Paley Center, in New York.

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The stock rose as much as 5.1% and was on track for its biggest one-day percentage gain since November. The stock also touched its highest intraday level since November.

At issue is a code linked to Apple devices known as Identification for Advertisers, which companies like Facebook use to target users and track the performance of ads. An upcoming update to Apple’s iOS 14 operating system, which will be rolled out in early spring, will require device users to opt into sharing information to developers.

Investors have been concerned that this change will diminish Facebook’s ability to serve ads to this sought-after category of consumers, and the stock has struggled to advance in the wake of this issue. The stock is about 5% below a record hit on Aug. 26, the same day Facebook published a blog post where it warned about the impact Apple’s changes would have on its targeted advertising business.

At a conference earlier this month, Facebook Chief Financial Officer Dave Wehner said there was “significant uncertainty as to what the opt-in rates are going to be,” and that the policy change is “going to be a challenge in a variety of places.”

Zuckerberg’s comments seemed to diminish how much of a risk Apple’s change could represent to revenue.

“Facebook generally overstates the challenges it faces, not understates,” said Ryan Jacob, manager of the Jacob Internet Fund, which owns the stock. “If Facebook is saying this is more of a speed-bump than a hurdle, that would be encouraging.”

Separately, Morgan Stanley touted Facebook’s potential within e-commerce, noting that more than 250 million monthly active users were using Facebook’s Shops feature. “This traction speaks to the multi-year optionality FB’s platform has to continue to drive outsized growth,” the firm wrote to clients.