lawsuit against Facebook that argued the company shut down nascent competition through acquisitions. The Justice Department has also sued Google over whether the company abused a monopoly over online search.

More cases could be coming. The F.T.C. is investigating whether Amazon has violated antitrust laws, and the Justice Department has inquiries into Google’s dominance over advertising technology and into Apple’s App Store policies.

For Mr. Zuckerberg, the F.T.C. lawsuit is a setback. He has been pushing Meta away from its roots in social networking as its apps, like Facebook and Instagram, face more competition amid stumbles in privacy and content moderation. Instead, he has bet on the metaverse.

Mr. Zuckerberg has reassigned employees and put a top lieutenant in charge of metaverse efforts. He has also authorized executives to pursue some of the most popular games in the V.R. space. In 2019, Facebook purchased Beat Games, makers of the hit title Beat Saber, one of the top V.R. games on the Oculus platform. He has also authorized the purchase of roughly half a dozen other virtual reality or gaming studios over the past three years.

The F.T.C. filed suit on Wednesday hours before Meta reported its first decline in quarterly revenue since it went public in 2012. The company has recently trimmed employee perks and reined in spending amid uncertain economic conditions. John Newman, the deputy director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Competition, said the agency acted on the Within deal because Meta was “trying to buy its way to the top.” The company already owned a best-selling virtual reality fitness app, he said, but then chose to acquire Within’s Supernatural app “to buy market position.” He said the deal was “an illegal acquisition, and we will pursue all appropriate relief.”

The F.T.C.’s vote to authorize the filing was split 3 to 2. Christine Wilson, a Republican commissioner at the agency, said she was one of the two votes against the lawsuit. She declined to comment on her reasoning.

The F.T.C. said in its request that asking for an injunction was sometimes a prelude to filing a complaint against a merger, which could embroil Meta and the agency in a lengthy trial and appeals process. A F.T.C. spokeswoman said the agency had not filed such a complaint and declined to comment further on the agency’s strategy.

Ms. Khan, 33, who was appointed by President Biden last year to acclaim from the left, has tried to make good on expansive promises to rein in corporate power. She became prominent after she wrote an article in law school in 2017 criticizing Amazon. As F.T.C. chair, she has called for regulators to vigorously enforce antitrust laws and has said she may craft sweeping online privacy rules that would implicate Silicon Valley companies.

The lawsuit drew praise from Ms. Khan’s allies. Sandeep Vaheesan, the legal director of the Open Markets Institute, a liberal think tank, said in a statement that the lawsuit was a “step toward making building, not buying, the norm for Facebook.”

But tech industry allies assailed Ms. Khan’s actions. Adam Kovacevich, the chief executive of Chamber of Progress, an industry group funded partly by Meta, said that with the new lawsuit, “the agency is more focused on getting headlines than results.” He said Meta “isn’t any closer than pickleball or synchronized swimming are to locking up the fitness market.”

Meta said in a blog post that the F.T.C. would fail to prove that the Within deal would “substantially lessen competition,” which is the bar that is typically set to block a deal under federal antitrust law.

In its lawsuit, the F.T.C. said that if Meta bought Within’s Supernatural, it would no longer have an incentive to improve Beat Saber, the virtual reality fitness game it already owns. But Nikhil Shanbhag, an associate general counsel for Meta, said in the blog post that the games weren’t competitors.

“Beat Saber is a game people play to have fun and it has many competitors,” he said. “Supernatural couldn’t be more different.”

Seamus Hughes contributed research.

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Facebook Parent Meta Posts First Revenue Decline In History

By Associated Press
July 27, 2022

The company is down 36% from $10.39 billion, or $3.61 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta posted its first revenue decline in history Thursday, dragged by a drop in ad spending as the economy falters — and as competition from rival TikTok intensifies.

The company’s stock dropped slightly in after-hours trading following the results, suggesting Wall Street was largely expecting the weak earnings report.

The results also largely followed a broader decline in the digital advertising market that is dinging rivals such as Alphabet and Snap. Google’s parent company reported its slowest quarterly growth in two years on Tuesday.

Meta also faces some unique challenges, including the looming departure of its chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, the chief architect of the company’s massive advertising business.

In addition to TikTok, the decline in ad spending among the downturn and Apple’s privacy changes, “questions about Meta’s leadership” — including Sandberg’s exit and negative sentiment about the company as a whole — also contributed to the decline, said Raj Shah, a managing partner at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient.

Meta earned profits of $6.69 billion, or $2.46 per share, in the April-June period. That’s down 36% from $10.39 billion, or $3.61 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Revenue was $28.82 billion, down 1% from $29.08 billion a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of $2.54 per share on revenue of $28.91 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.

“The year-over-year drop in quarterly revenue signifies just how quickly Meta’s business has deteriorated,” said Insider Intelligence analyst Debra Aho Williamson in an email. “Prior to these results, we had forecasted that Meta’s worldwide ad revenue would increase 12.4% this year, to nearly $130 billion. Now, it’s unlikely to reach that figure.”

She added that the good news — if it could be called that — is that Meta’s competitors are also experiencing slowdowns.

Meta is in the midst of a corporate transformation that will take years to complete. It wants to evolve from social media to the “metaverse” — a risky bet that’s still in its nascent stage. The metaverse is sort of the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” in which you can immerse yourself instead of just staring at a screen. The company is investing billions on its metaverse plans that will likely take years to pay off — and as part of its plan renamed itself Meta last fall.

“Expect Meta’s decline to continue until Meta can monetize the metaverse, and begin another Meta-reverse,” Shah said.

Meta’s forecast revenue of $26 billion to $28.5 billion for the current quarter, which is below Wall Street’s expectations.

“This outlook reflects a continuation of the weak advertising demand environment we experienced throughout the second quarter, which we believe is being driven by broader macroeconomic uncertainty,” finance chief David Wehner said in a statement. Meta said Wehner is being promoted to chief strategy officer, where he will oversee the company’s strategy and corporate development. Susan Li, currently vice president of finance, will replace him as CFO.

Shares of Meta Platforms Inc. fell 58 cents to $169 in after-hours trading.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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