Bay Area Tech Talent Doesn't Come Cheap

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

Facebook recently initiated a $6 billion share buyback program for 2017, a year the company is calling a year of investment.

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In this segment from Industry Focus: Tech, Motley Fool analyst Dylan Lewis and contributor Daniel Sparks talk about one hefty investment that Facebook and other big tech companies are going to have to make in 2017 and why it's so important to invest so heavily into their talent pool.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Dec. 2, 2016.

Dylan Lewis: One of the things I think is kind of curious, and maybe why some people were caught a little off guard by this, was most of the rhetoric from Facebook'smanagement in the most recent calls had been talking about how 2017 was a year of investment. We don't really think of that as share repurchase program. We think of that more as investing in the business, right?

Daniel Sparks: Right, and that's interesting. But I think that the narrative in these Palo Alto, Silicon Valley companies in the Bay Area, is really, they're starting to think of investments as talent. Of course, they're making big investments in other areas, and I'm sure we'll see some acquisitions and some investments in the product. But at the end of the day, it's really expensive to retain talent, and Facebook realizes that for them to stay ahead, they're going to have to make some massive investments in talent. When you actually look closely at Facebook's most recent earnings call, you will see a huge emphasis on Facebook focusing on maintaining talent. So, when they say it's going to be a big investment year, I think a lot of that has to do with their expected jump in stock-based compensation. When you factor in this repurchase program with their stock-based compensation, all of this starts to make a little bit more sense.

Lewis: Yeah. To look to another company that seems to be using share buybacks kind of the same way, why don't we talk about Alphabet a little bit? This is a business that finally initiated a buyback program in late 2015, which was over 10 years after going public as Google. I think, really, when you look at what they've done with buybacks in the last year, that's going to be a blueprint from what we can expect from Facebook. It seems like it's been opportunistic, and it's really just to offset stock-based compensation again, right?

Sparks: Right. Alphabet is definitely a really good example of how investors might want to think about the Facebook program right now. Alphabet, in 2015, announced that they were going to to do a $5.1 billion repurchase program. At the time, you could look at the pace of their stock-based compensation and say, "This will probably equal out to about their stock-based compensation."

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Sparks owns shares of Facebook. Dylan Lewis owns shares of Alphabet (A shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.