Today: Apple adds to its investor returns and announces a stock split, Facebook's chief financial officer departs, and Zynga waves goodbye to its founder as the Silicon Valley companies announce earnings.
The Lead: Revenues aren't the news from Apple, Facebook and Zynga reports
Wednesday's focus was expected to be on the financial returns from three of Silicon Valley's most watched companies: The world's most valuable company, Apple; the most popular social network, Facebook; and struggling social-gaming pioneer Zynga. Instead, all three companies overshadowed their earnings reports with announcements of big changes.
After staring down activist investor Carl Icahn's demand for greater investor return beyond its $100 billion plan, Apple announced Wednesday that it will expand its stock repurchases by $30 billion and split its stock, giving investors seven shares for every one they currently own.
"We're confident in Apple's future and see tremendous value in Apple's stock, so we're continuing to allocate the majority of our program to share repurchases," CEO Tim Cook said in Wednesday's news release on the subject.
Apple spent $36.8 billion on dividend payments and stock repurchases in 2013, helping push Silicon Valley to record investor return that was more than double the total of any previous year.
Apple reported net income of $10.2 billion, or $11.62 a share, on sales of $45.6 billion in the first quarter, with its earnings per share boosted by the company's repurchases. The performance easily topped analyst expectations for a year-over-year revenue decline thanks to booming sales of the Cupertino company's iPhone, which gained 17 percent year-over-year to 43.7 million.
"We're very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales," Cook said in the earnings release.
Facebook also blew away expectations with its earnings report, which showed profits had nearly tripled since the same quarter a year ago. The Menlo Park social network reported net income of $642 million, or 25 cents a share, on revenues of $2.5 billion, and Facebook reported more than 1 billion people used the company's mobile application every month for the first time.
Facebook used the occasion to disclose the departure of one of its top executives, Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman. Ebersman had guided the company's finances since arriving from Genentech five years ago, including leading Facebook through its initial public offering and taking the blame after an initial flop. He will be replaced by former Zynga CFO David Wehner, already on staff at Facebook, on June 1, and Ebersman will remain with the company through September to ensure a smooth transition.
"This has been a tough decision because Facebook is such a great company and has such a bright future ahead, but I've decided to move back into health care where I spent my career before Facebook," Ebersman said in Wednesday's announcement.
While Zynga's former CFO settles in at Facebook, Zynga will be experiencing life without its founder in an operational role for the first time. The San Francisco social-gaming company announced Wednesday that founder Mark Pincus would step down from the chief product officer role he took after turning over the CEO chair to Don Mattrick last year.
"Ultimately, a ship is better with one captain putting a hand on the wheel," Pincus told Recode in an interview Wednesday.
Pincus will remain as nonexecutive chairman at the company, which has struggled since its sort-of breakup with Facebook, leading to waves of layoffs. The company's declining finances were apparent again in Wednesday's release, which showed a quarterly loss of $61.2 million, or 7 cents a share, on sales of $168 million; that performance was down from a slight profit and $263.6 million in revenues during the same quarter a year ago.
There were signs of optimism in Zynga's report, though: Active users and paying users increased from the final quarter of 2013, along with other metrics.
"We believe these indicators demonstrate our strategy is working and the focus, rigor and discipline of our teams is showing up in our results," Mattrick said in Wednesday's announcement.
All three companies enjoyed Wall Street gains in late trading following the announcements. Apple rose to its highest prices of 2014, moving near $565 after closing with a 1.3 percent loss at $524.75; Facebook recovered its 2.7 percent daily loss by moving from its closing price of $61.36 to more than $63.50; and Zynga topped $4.65 after closing with a 3.1 percent decline at $4.42.
SV150 market report: Wall Street rally fizzles as Netflix falls
Ahead of Wednesday afternoon's earnings report, Wall Street broke a five-session winning streak as Netflix and other companies that recently released their quarterly checkups suffered.
Netflix sank 5.2 percent to $353.50 after Amazon revealed that it has struck a deal to stream older shows from HBO. Netflix has repeatedly said that it views HBO and its HBO Go streaming application as its main rival, while viewing the Amazon Prime Web video service as complementary, similar to different channels on a cable lineup. With Wednesday's move, though, Amazon gains access to popular HBO shows of the past such as "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" while striking up a relationship that could prove more fruitful in the future. "We believe that Netflix has enjoyed an advantage in content selection. Today's news is a clear sign that Amazon is intent on closing the content gap with Netflix," Morgan Stanley analyst Stephen Shin wrote. Netflix announced an impending increase to its subscription rates along with strong earnings results Monday, but the resulting stock bounce was mostly depleted in Wednesday's decline.
Tuesday's raft of Silicon Valley earnings reports mostly led to declines in Wednesday trading. The one exception was Gilead Sciences, which reported a possible record quarter for its breakthrough hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi; the Foster City biopharmaceutical giant gained 1.4 percent to $73.86 Wednesday. VMware plunged 9.2 percent to $95.53 despite reporting continued gains, as analysts lamented lagging bookings for the Palo Alto company. The only SV150 company to fall harder Wednesday was Intuitive Surgical, which dropped 11.5 percent to $373.93 after the Sunnyvale company reported a steep drop in sales of its da Vinci surgical robots. Juniper Networks declined 4 percent to $24.86 despite reporting profit and revenues gains ahead of a planned reorganization.
Google dropped 1.5 percent to $524.75 as it showed off the ability to see older pictures of street scenes in Google Maps. SunPower jumped 7.2 percent higher to $31.48 after inking a deal with Google for residential solar leases; the San Jose solar panel manufacturer will release earnings Thursday. Also on tap for earnings Thursday is Oakland streaming-music company Pandora Media, which declined 4.2 percent to $28.17. Twitter fell 0.2 percent to $45.95 while users of the social-media site were beset by unexplained spammy tweets, and Yelp plunged 5.6 percent to $64.50.
Up: SunPower, Gilead, Nvidia, Symantec, Electronic Arts
Down: VMware, Splunk, Workday, Yelp, Netflix, Tesla, Pandora, Zynga, SolarCity, Facebook, Salesforce, Yahoo, Oracle, Google, Apple, AMD, eBay
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Down 16.99, or 1.22 percent, to 1,375.06
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 34.49, or 0.8 percent, to 4,126.97
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 12.72, or 0.1 percent, to 16,501.65
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 4.16, or 0.2 percent, to 1,875.39.
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.