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Meta plans to cut 10% of UK workforce in retreat from London

Meta plans to axe more than 10 per cent of its UK workforce and ditch Instagram’s new hub in London, as the social media group retreats from the British capital in its latest restructuring effort.

An internal document sent to staff on Wednesday said that at least 687 jobs would be eliminated, primarily in London, with yet more among its UK staff of about 5,000 at risk of redundancy.

The biggest cuts will hit the Instagram team in London, with 250 jobs set to be axed, though others will be given the chance to move to New York. The photo app will continue to be headquartered at Meta’s main offices in Menlo Park, California.

The shake-up comes less than a year after Meta started to set up a significant hub for Instagram in London, with its head, Adam Mosseri, relocating to the UK capital to increase staffing levels and build the scale to compete with fast-growing rival TikTok.

The move comes after Meta had said it planned to axe more than 20,000 jobs over recent months in cost-cutting moves described by chief executive Mark Zuckerberg as a “year of efficiency”. The company employed about 86,000 people globally at the end of 2022.

With the UK operations having survived the brunt of the initial lay-offs, Meta has now begun targeting one of its largest international offices.

“London got away lightly in the first round of cuts, perhaps because of employment laws here. Now they have made the deep cut in the US, they have to apply it more evenly,” said one former UK-based Meta manager.

Just eight months after arriving in the capital, Mosseri told staff on Wednesday that Instagram’s hub in London would soon cease to exist.

He added that he had secured the budget to relocate London-based employees to Instagram’s offices in New York, and he expected there would be more jobs than staff willing to move, according to employees at the meeting.

“Adam was often in the office and was concerned about Meta being too US-centric. He was trying to change that and has been forced to give up by higher powers,” said one Instagram employee.

Another said Mosseri was angry about the decision to leave London and was reluctant to move his family back to the US. Meta told the Financial Times that his move to the city was always temporary.

The shake-up comes as a combination of rising inflation and other macroeconomic woes, along with disruptive changes from Apple’s privacy rules, has prompted investors in recent months to call for the $551bn social media company to rein in its finances.

Zuckerberg’s long-term plan to build a costly avatar-filled metaverse, which would not be profitable for many years, has also caused consternation among investors. After a stock sell-off in 2022, its shares have risen more than 70 per cent in the year to date to $215 but remain below their 2021 peak during pandemic boom times.

Meta’s UK cuts will also affect about 55 jobs across apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook, as well as nearly 60 across its Reality Labs, tasked with delivering the metaverse, and its artificial intelligence teams, according to the internal memo.

Other areas affected by the job cuts included monetisation and advertising, as well as data scientists, designers and user experience researchers.

Three insiders have described the job-cuts strategy in London as a “scattergun approach”, selecting teams at random to be made redundant.

A former engineering manager said: “There is no logical explanation for why certain teams are impacted. Underperformers have kept jobs while high performers have lost jobs just because they happened to be in the wrong team.”

Although staff have been told they could relocate or apply for other roles at Meta, some managers have recommended that at-risk employees start looking for jobs outside the company. A consultation process has been launched to specify which staff will remain at the group.

“We do not feel that secure,” said one Instagram employee who is considering moving but is concerned about having a work visa tied to Meta during a period of instability.

Instagram’s London office was its first international building, established in 2013. Since then, the city has become an important location for Meta, home to its biggest engineering base outside the US.

Mosseri joined Facebook in 2008 and led the team that developed its news feed. He was made head of Instagram in 2018 when the app’s original co-founders quit the company.

His ambitions included hiring a large team with several layers of seniority, but these hopes were crushed after Zuckerberg vowed in February to slash “middle managers . . . to make decisions faster”.

The result has been jumbled teams working in different countries, with an unclear line of command, and morale at an all-time low with very little work getting done, according to several current employees.

“Mark has an emphasis on being face to face. He wants people back in the office under his control,” one Instagram employee said.

Despite this, Meta has been “shrinking” its “real estate footprint” to cut costs and reduced its presence in leased offices in the US. While it opened new offices in King’s Cross in central London in March last year, it is looking to sublet a 310,000 square-feet office in Fitzrovia that it leased in 2021 and never moved into.

Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy in San Francisco.

If you have any related information, please contact cristina.criddle@ft.com and hannah.murphy@ft.com

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