Big Tech is getting beaten up on Wall Street. It’s a good time for them.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has a long-standing philosophy that Apple should continue to invest for the future during a downturn. It more than doubled its workforce during the Great Recession and nearly tripled its sales. Lately, it has raised bonuses for some hardware engineers to as much as $200,000, according to Bloomberg.
John Chambers, who steered Cisco Systems through several downturns as a former chief executive, said the companies’ strong businesses and deep pockets could give them room to take risks that would be impractical for smaller competitors. . During the 2008 recession, he said Cisco allowed struggling automakers to pay for technology services on credit at a time when competitors were demanding money. The company was at risk of having to write down $1 billion in inventory, but emerged from the recession as the main supplier to a healthy auto industry, he said.
“Businesses break loose during downturns,” Chambers said.
Excelling will require ignoring the sluggishness of the broader market, said Harvard Business School professor David Yoffie. He said previous downturns had shown that even the strongest companies were susceptible to earnings pressures and prone to setbacks. “Companies are getting pessimistic like everyone else,” he said.
The first test for the biggest tech companies will be contagion from their peers. Amazon shares in electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive plunged more than 65%, a paper loss of $7.6 billion. Sales of Apple’s services are likely to be held back by a slowdown in advertising from app developers, who rely on venture capital funding to fund their marketing, analysts said. And startups are reviewing their spending on cloud services, which will likely slow the growth of Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, analysts and cloud executives said.
“People are trying to figure out how to spend smarter,” said Sam Ramji, chief strategy officer at DataStax, a data management company.
Regulatory challenges on the horizon could also cloud the outlook for big tech companies. The European Digital Markets Act, soon to become law, is designed to increase the openness of technology platforms. Among other things, it could scuttle the estimated $19 billion Apple is raising from Alphabet to make Google the default search engine on iPhones, a change that Bernstein says could erase up to 3% of the search engine. Apple’s pretax earnings.
But the companies would have to challenge the law in court, potentially stalling the legislation for years. The likelihood of it getting bogged down leaves analysts sticking to their consensus: “Big Tech is going to be more powerful. And what is being done about it? Nothing,” said Mr. Kramer of Arete Research.
Jason Karaian contributed reporting.