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Five tech giants including Amazon and Apple have lost nearly $1 trillion in value. What's going on?

Facebook is one of the tech giants that has seen its stock price plunge in recent months. (Associated Press file)
Facebook is one of the tech giants that has seen its stock price plunge in recent months. (Associated Press file)
Published Nov. 26, 2018

What's it like to lose nearly $300 billion? Apple knows.

Its stock price cratered in recent weeks, vaporizing a quarter of the tech giant's value — $292 billion to be precise.

Apple has plenty of company.

Facebook has lost more than $235 billion since its stock price peaked in July. Amazon has fared only slightly better. Google jettisoned more than $160 billion. And Netflix dropped $67 billion after its stock price plunged 35 percent in four months.

Tally it up and those five companies have lost more than $980 billion in value.

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Just how much is that?

It's Florida's entire annual economic output.

It's four Coca Cola Companies plus a McDonald's, with enough change left over to buy most of the world a quarter pounder with cheese.

Put another way: Poof, the equivalent of Apple disappeared in just a few months. That's right. It's more than the total value of the world's largest publicly traded company.

Part of this is just the law of large numbers. This tech quintuplet — plus a few other behemoths like Microsoft — are so big that when their stock prices drop even a little they lose a lot more in value than smaller companies. When their prices tumble a lot, like they have lately, the numbers are huge.

But that doesn't explain why the five companies have seen their stock prices fall by an average of about 25 percent since the summer.

What's going on?

The stock market as a whole has taken a hit, falling about 8 percent in that time, thanks to rising interest rates, profit taking and some of the dark voodoo that affects investing behavior.

Each of the tech giants have also faced their own challenges. There's not enough space in this column to touch on all of it, but here's a taste:

Amazon's third-quarter revenue failed to meet analysts' estimates and the company issued a cautious outlook for the current quarter. The retailer's announcement that it would implement a $15 minimum wage didn't help its stock price, nor did forecasts that the overall economy will slow next year, which can affect Amazon more than non-retailers.

As for Apple, the three new iPhones aren't selling as well as expected. The growing possibility of a prolonged tariff war with China has also weighed on its stock price.

In May, the European Union slapped Google with a $5.1 billion fine in the Android antitrust case, but the bigger hit with investors appeared to be Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation, which gave citizens greater control over their personal data and severely limited some popular forms of digital marketing.

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Facebook has been mired in several embarrassing data breaches, privacy issues and revelations about how the social media company responded to foreigners using its site to influence the 2016 elections. It's also facing the prospect of not expanding as quickly in a world increasingly saturated with social media options.

Netflix, by far the smallest of the five companies, grew rapidly, and its stock price shot up, raising concerns that its balance sheet didn't support such exuberance. The company has said recently that it won't break even for a few years and its chief financial officer has decided to step down.

Hanging over these companies, especially Amazon, Google and Facebook, is the growing prospect of more government regulation, which could raise costs and cut into their bottom lines. For years, the companies, seen as out to do good in the world, got the benefit of the doubt when it came to policing themselves. That's changed. The technology minnows have turned into sharks, in many people's eyes. Sharks that need to be reined in.

There is more talk that the companies have become too big, allowed to elbow out competition and get away with too much iffy behavior including careless handling of personal data and manipulating buying habits. Even several tech company leaders have said they wouldn't fight more regulation.

President Donald Trump has singled out Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in some of his comments about whether tech companies are playing by the rules. As for more regulation of Amazon, Facebook and Google, the president has said: "We are certainly looking at it...for all three."

Contact Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com. Follow @GrahamBrink.