Snap stock tumbled right over the cliff Monday evening, and the reason for the plummet makes it quite likely that Snap won’t be the last tech company to see its shares go so spectacularly splat over the next few months.
Less than three weeks after issuing guidance for the second quarter, Snap is now revising those figures, saying it expects both sales and profit to fall short of initial estimates. It blames the situation on a “macroeconomic environment [that] has deteriorated further and faster than anticipated,” the company says in a new SEC filing.
Investors, already shaken by weeks of decline in equities, rushed to dump the stock in after-hours trading. Snap fell more than 30% to around $15.80, a grim mark for the shares. At such a price, it means the company has given up nearly all the gains it won through the pandemic, a time when users turned to apps like Snapchat to pass the time, lifting the fortunes of companies like Snap and other competitors.
There are two narratives apparent in the stock’s Wile E. Coyote imitation, and let’s talk about them separately. There’s the macro one, which is arguably the most important. Snap isn’t the only company relying on digital-advertising dollars to fill its bank accounts—far from it, of course. Everything from Alphabet to Meta does too. Snap’s warning about revenue and profit should be viewed for what it most obviously is: an indicator those companies will struggle in the second quarter, and we’ll get a look at just how bad it is for them when they report their second-quarter figures in July and August. That indicator alarm is glowing neon red after Snap’s statement, the same shade as, well, an illuminated exit sign.
Which is precisely the directional cue investors across technology took on Monday. Meta shares declined 7% in after hours, Alphabet’s by 3.6%, Pinterest’s by 11.9%. And, yikes, this will only make things all the more dire for Twitter, whose shares dropped 3.9%. The further Twitter stock slides, the hungrier Elon Musk will get to redo his price for the company. (If you have been living under a rock—and, my goodness, lucky you in some real sense—you may not know Musk offered $54.20 a share for Twitter as recently as April 14. It trades for $36.45 right now.) In turn, if Twitter refuses to renegotiate, and Musk walks, which totally remains a possibility, Twitter will emerge out of takeover talks into a moderately to severely depressed market for ads with a share price that’s a fraction of what Musk said he’d pay. Such a scenario is what you might metaphorically call “out of the frying pan, into the bonfire.”
Even with a decreased appetite for ads among marketers, many Big Tech companies are going to do just fine—even if their shares take some hits in the next few months as they did on Monday and have over recent weeks. It’s easy enough to identify who falls into this category. These companies throw off lots of cash and sport fat profits. Those two elements provide plenty of cushion during bearish times and give those businesses the ability to go through the rubble if they want, to buy companies on the cheap and get first crack at talent.
Speaking of portly profits, you’ll find nothing of the kind at Snap, and here’s where we can get to our second narrative, the Snap-specific one. Snap is more likely to have a tough time of it as the markets continue to churn, more than, say, Meta, which also has an ads-challenged revenue model but also did $39.4 billion in profit last year. (In that time, Snap lost $488 million.) In addition to the broader economic trends, Snap is also contending with changes to Apple’s iPhone software that has forced Snap and other businesses to rethink their digital advertising business and had already led to a disruption in marketing budgets. (Apple is letting users stop apps from tracking them. Snap and its advertisers had counted on this data for targeted advertising.) This had already weighed heavily on Snap stock over the last few months. Just last fall, Snap shares were at record highs, over $80.
By being the one of the first companies to talk about a worse-than-expected second quarter, Snap hopes to get out in front of things and possibly save itself from an even sharper decline in its stock over the next few months. Or even more pain when its peers start fessing up to how bad it’s been for them. Wall Street and institutional investors do not like surprises during earnings season, and the early release of the figures tries to avoid such a fate.
“There is a lot to deal with in the macro environment today,” Chief Executive Evan Spiegel reportedly said Monday at a JPMorgan Chase conference. How well Snap and the others navigate through those headwinds—and the clarity they give to Wall Street and other investors about their problems—will dictate who else goes over the edge and how long it’ll take Snap to climb back up.