Editors' pick: Originally published April 14.
Facebook (FB - Get Report) highlighted messaging and video as the social media giant's key areas of long-term focus at its annual developer conference this week, underscoring just how well Mark Zuckerberg's ambitious M&A plans are faring.
The Menlo Park, Calif.-based Internet company kicked off its two-day F8 Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday with Zuckerberg, its CEO, unveiling Facebook's long-term strategy to concentrate on messaging, video and instant articles.
While Facebook's Messenger messaging and texting business was developed in-house, the root of the 12-year-old social media giant's vision has been an ambitious and somewhat aggressive dealmaking strategy that is starting to paying off.
Facebook paid $2 billion for virtual reality headset producer Oculus VR in July 2014 and purchased messaging application maker WhatsApp for $21.8 billion in October 2014, about two years after acquiring Instagram Inc. for $1 billion in September 2012.
"It's finally coming together," said Ivan Feinseth chief investment officer at brokerage Tigress Financial. "You look at acquisitions that Facebook and Google have made -- everything was laughed at and looked at with skepticism. But they turned out to be brilliant."
The perception was that Facebook overpaid for many of its acquisitions, but technology is always expensive in the beginning, Feinseth said.
"Facebook is a platform for connecting people, and they're leveraging technology to do that," he said. "Overall, the ability to automate communication and connection processes will have a huge impact as businesses migrate to social media."
Facebook has made big-picture acquisitions to move ahead while some tech giants have pursued M&A merely to catch up, Feinseth added.
"As the company continues to learn from its lessons in expanding Instagram, it will be armed with more information to apply to the rollouts of Messenger and WhatsApp monetization," said Jim Cramer, founder of TheStreet and manager of the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio, which owns Facebook. "While some may have been skeptical when Facebook originally acquired Instagram and WhatsApp, the early success in monetization efforts highlights this management team's ability to execute on their vision, and we see a very promising future."
When it comes to M&A, Facebook is unlikely to make major, needle-moving acquisitions moving forward, Feinseth said.
He explained that the media company has always looked at potential acquisition targets and whether or not their valuations are justified.
Facebook's deals will mostly be smaller, tuck-in acquisitions, according to Feinseth. For example, virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR has purchased Pebbles Interfaces, among others, since joining the Facebook umbrella.
Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities Inc., agreed, adding that, while he doesn't expect Facebook to seal a needle-moving transaction, it could take a look at Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) and LinkedIn (LNKD) for their respective offerings.
He said it's unlikely Facebook will build real-time news or professional networking products in-house.
"Monetizing Messenger makes sense to me," Pachter added. "But monetizing WhatsApp will be difficult."
He further said that, while there have been concerns among social media companies about advertising rates slowing down, such issues are applicable to the Western world.
"[Facebook] will continue to follow its proven playbook of building great products, achieving scale and then building ecosystems around those products/apps in order to monetize," wrote Cowen & Co. analyst John Blackledge in a Wednesday note.
Blackledge further noted that Facebook's 10-year road map will be primarily focused on connecting users, having a better understanding of what content users want to experience and utilizing virtual and augmented reality as a platform.
Facebook shares were rising 0.9% Thursday morning to $111.49, giving the company a market cap of about $327 billion.Elsewhere in the sector, Groupon ( GRPN - Get Report) received in April $250 million from Atairos Management after Alibaba Group ( BABA - Get Report) bought a stake in the e-commerce marketplace company.
Officials with Facebook and LinkedIn didn't return requests for comment while those at Twitter declined to comment Wednesday.