Facebook Shares Within Shouting Distance of New Highs as It Scoops Up Hugo Barra

By Evan Niu, CFA Markets Fool.com

Hugo Barra and Mark Zuckerberg meeting in virtual reality. Image source: Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook.

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Well, that didn't take too long. Nearly three months after reporting third-quarter earnings in November that sparked a sell-off (that was only exacerbated by other negative storylines), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has recovered fully from the dip. (Told you so.) Shares came within pennies of tapping fresh all-time highs in trading today, so it's safe to say that the social network has regained investor confidence. Shares have climbed 15% already in January so far.

The big news today that was helping drive gains was that Facebook has now hired Hugo Barra as its new vice president of virtual reality (VR). In no uncertain terms, this is a huge win for the social network.

Barra is a great fit

Years ago, Barra was most famous as a key Alphabet executive that helped spearhead Android's precipitous rise in the smartphone market. He was a regular fixture at product announcements, as well as a prominent face for the platform. Barra spent over five years at the search giant from 2008 to 2013, most recently as VP of Android product management. Note that those years are precisely when Android took over the mobile world.

That's why it was such a big deal when China's Xiaomi poached Barra in 2013 to lead its global expansion efforts. Scoring Barra was considered a huge win for the upstart smartphone maker and a meaningful loss for Google. Barra moved to China for that position, where he has resided for the past few years. This move across the world contributed to Barra's decision to leave Xiaomi, which he announced on Facebook a few days ago. The executive acknowledged that he was out of his "comfort zone in Silicon Valley," where the majority of his friends and family live, saying the distance had "taken a huge toll" and even started to adversely impact his health. At the time, it wasn't clear where in Silicon Valley he'd end up (not that there should have been much concern that he'd find a place, given his qualifications).

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Mark Zuckerberg announced last night that he had scooped up Barra to lead Facebook's VR business, which includes Oculus. The two executives even met via VR since Barra is still in China at the moment, which his Zuckness called "fitting." Barra shares Zuckerberg's vision that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform.

The news comes just shortly after Facebook's Oculus VR subsidiary announced that its CEO Brendan Iribe would be stepping down, leaving a major opening within Oculus leadership. Technically, Barra will be under the Facebook corporate umbrella and not the new CEO of Oculus, although he will also be responsible for leading the Oculus team.

Barra is a great fit to lead Facebook's VR efforts and help make the Zuckerberg's VR dreams into a (non-virtual) reality, given his experience with helping grow burgeoning computing platforms. He also has far more experience with business strategy than Oculus' current leadership possesses. Good score, Zuck Dawg.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOG, Alphabet GOOGL, and Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.