Facebook Inc. did more than a simple name change when it took on the Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:FB) moniker. It also put an emerging trend (the metaverse) on the map. Doing so didn’t give FB stock much of a boost.
It did help spark enthusiasm for several more speculative cryptos and stocks, as you are likely aware.
Nimble traders were able to book fast profits trading this trend via such vehicles. Other investors had less luck, as seen from their big declines after the meta trade peaked in November.
With this, you’re likely better off not chasing the chancier meta plays at this time.
Instead, going long the social media giant may be the best vehicle for metaverse exposure.
This isn’t the only big tech stock out there with a meta catalyst. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have also been discussed by analysts as possible metaverse plays.
Still, even if this company fails to dominate the metaverse, consider it the better play. Why? Let’s dive in and find out.
FB Stock and its Meta Catalyst
As I mentioned above, the metaverse has yet to help send shares in Meta Platforms higher. Admittedly, other factors have played a role in this.
The worries over the Fed’s hawkish moves and the omicron variant, for one. Along with this, per my InvestorPlace colleague Dana Blankenhorn, the company’s numerous controversies have weighed down on it as well.
That said, based on recent headlines, the metaverse catalyst may be on the verge of finally putting points into FB stock.
As analysts from KeyBanc discussed in a recent research note, the rise in popularity of the Oculus app over the Christmas weekend may signal its headsets were a popular gift this holiday season.
News of this helped to give Meta shares a 3.26% pop the day it was announced. Although not exactly a “needle mover,” it may be a sign that this trend will start to have a positive impact on its near-term price performance.
That’s good news for investors, who have likely been frustrated as the company’s big tech peers, like Apple and Microsoft, have performed much better than this name in recent months.
But that’s not all. Over the long-term, this trend is more likely to have a material impact on this stock, than it will on the price of the above-mentioned names also perceived to have high exposure to it.
A Better Metaverse Play
Name change notwithstanding, I’ll admit it’s not set in stone that Meta Platforms will dominate the metaverse hardware business.
Many have made the case why Apple stands to win the metaverse hardware wars. That said, even if it does not become the largest name in the hardware end of this space, this trend could still have a greater long-term impact on its stock price for two reasons.
First, it’s making a much more concentrated bet on the trend than its rivals, with efforts related to both the hardware and software ends of this digital frontier.
That may be riskier, yet it offers much more upside potential in the event the metaverse truly becomes the next big thing.
Second, FB stock trades at a much more reasonable valuation than either AAPL stock or MSFT stock.
At today’s prices, Meta Platforms trades for 24.8x forward earnings. Apple’s earnings multiple is 31.6x, and Microsoft’s is 37.2x.
I’ll concede much of this has to do with low analyst expectations when it comes to the company’s 2022 earnings growth. Consensus calls for earnings per share (EPS) growth of just 2% next year.
In contrast, Apple and Microsoft are both expected to see double-digit percentage annual earnings growth.
However, between it beating consensus four quarters in a row, analysts may be underestimating how well the company will perform in the quarters ahead.
With the high end of estimates calling for EPS of $16.70 in 2022 (nearly 20% above 2021 estimates), Meta Platforms could surprise.
Bottom Line on Meta Platforms
Investors and traders have dabbled in riskier metaverse cryptos/stocks over the past two months. Those early to the trend likely realized fast profits.
Unfortunately, investors a little late to the game may be sitting underwater, after the pullback seen with these more volatile plays.
To play this trend, making a long-term wager looks to be the best move. Between Meta Platforms, Apple, and Microsoft, you have plenty of options. Yet among the three, there’s one that’s the best one, all things considered.
If placing bets on the metaverse, go with FB stock. It offers greater exposure to the trend than its peers, as well as a lower valuation.
On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Thomas Niel, a contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.