Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) took center stage this week as it testified before lawmakers following scrutiny on the social network's user-data policies, prompted by news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal last month. But two other stories in tech are worth a closer look, including Broadcom's (NASDAQ:AVGO) aggressive repurchase program and an analyst forecast for worse-than-expected Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) HomePod sales.
Apple's HomePod: A major miss?
Nobody seemed to be betting on Apple to succeed when the tech giant announced its HomePod smart speaker last summer. Not only is its $349 price tag far beyond the prices of Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) popular and ever-growing lineup of Echo smart speakers, but HomePod was extremely late to the fast-growing market. With several months of HomePod shipments now in the rearview mirror, it looks like Apple really might have missed the mark this time.
HomePod shipments may be "far below market expectations" this year, said KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo this week (via MacRumors). Kuo estimates Apple will ship only about 2 million to 2 1/2 million HomePod units in fiscal 2018. For comparison, Amazon said in its fourth-quarter earnings release that customers "purchased tens of millions of Echo devices last year."
HomePod didn't begin shipping until February of this year. Amazon announced its first Echo smart speaker in late 2014, with shipments beginning in the summer of 2015.
Broadcom prepares to repurchase shares
Shares of the semiconductor supplier rose 3% on Friday following the company's announcement that it authorized $12 billion for share repurchases. The authorization significantly expands Broadcom's existing capital-return program, which was a policy to deliver 50% of trailing-12-month free cash flow to shareholders through dividends. Friday's announcement expands on this capital allocation policy, "adding the ability to use the balance of our free cash flow not only for acquisitions but also for opportunistic buybacks," said Broadcom CFO Tom Krause in a press release.
Broadcom has been looking for ways to put more of its free cash flow to use. Management recently said it currently sees potential acquisition targets that could drive returns on investment beyond what it can achieve by buying back shares or paying down debt. But a share-repurchase authorization of this size gives Broadcom more flexibility to capitalize on any opportunities to buy its stock when it makes sense.
Mark Zuckerberg impresses
Judging by Facebook stock's 4.7% gain last week compared to the S&P 500's 2% rise, Zuckerberg handled himself well when he spent a total of about 10 hours answering questions in front of nearly 100 politicians in hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday. But Facebook's $164.52 stock price at the end of the week still is below the levels above $180 that it was trading at before news of the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke last month.
Investors will get more answers from Facebook about how all this attention in the press is affecting its business when the company reports its first-quarter results later this month. The social network is scheduled to report results for its first quarter after market close on April 25.