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Facebook earnings: $1.69 per share, vs. $1.35 expected

  • Facebook reported quarterly earnings and revenue well above expectations on Wednesday.
  • The number of daily users on the platform also bounced back, indicating steady engagement despite recent backlash surrounding the leak of personal information to firms such as Cambridge Analytica.
  • Shares jumped about 6 percent after the results were released.

Facebook reported quarterly earnings and revenue well above expectations on Wednesday, as it made more ad money from each user despite recent scandals.

The number of daily users on the platform also appeared to bounce back, indicating steady engagement despite backlash surrounding the leak of personal information to firms such as Cambridge Analytica. Shares jumped about 6 percent after the results were released.

Here's how the company did:

  • Earnings per share: $1.69 adjusted vs. $1.35 expected by a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate
  • Revenue: $11.97 billion vs. $11.4 billion expected by a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate
  • Daily active users: 1.45 billion vs. 1.45 billion expected by a StreetAccount estimate
  • Monthly active users: 2.2 billion vs. 2.2 billion expected by a StreetAccount estimate

A year ago, Facebook reported adjusted EPS of $1.04 on revenue of $8.03 billion.

The quarterly results also emphasized Facebook's ongoing hiring investments and expansion into mobile. Mobile ad revenue is now 91 percent of the total, and headcount increased 48 percent year over year to 27,742.

But CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call that the company is investing "heavily" on safety and security, including workers with language skills for detecting hate speech, and tools for verifying government IDs ahead of elections in the U.S. and abroad by the end of the year.

"Beyond the investments we're making to secure our platform, we're going to invest even more in building the experiences that bring people together on Facebook in the first place," Zuckerberg said.

Early signs point to little financial impact of Cambridge Analytica data leak 

It's still early, but Wednesday's report showed that advertisers weren't too deterred by the latest negative press about Facebook: Ad revenue jumped 50 percent from the year-ago period. The average revenue per user hit $5.53, better than the $5.35 expected by analysts surveyed by StreetAccount.

Facebook's financial results for the quarter that ended March 31 reflected the early reaction to a bombshell New York Times report published March 17.

That report and subsequent media reports revealed that third-party firms, including Cambridge Analytica, may have kept and sold personal Facebook user data, even though Facebook thought the data were deleted. The revelations, alongside changing privacy regulations in Europe, have cast doubt on Facebook's business model of targeted advertising.

Zuckerberg said Facebook is still proud of its business model. And based on key measures followed by Wall Street, Facebook's usership, margins and capital expenditures were little affected by the outcry, at least for the first few weeks.

  • Capex results: $2.81 billion vs. $2.86 billion expected by a StreetAccount estimate
  • Operating margin: 46 percent vs. 41 percent a year ago
  • Usership: Up 13 percent from a year ago

Facebook had already planned serious changes to its business headed into the first quarter, Zuckerberg said, and plans to continue taking a "broader view" on its responsibility and is focused on "moving forward."

In January, the company said it has been adding workers to boost security and said it now has 14,000 dedicated to site operations, or roughly double a year ago. Changes to favor quality engagement on the platform reduced the amount of time users spent on its social network by 50 million hours a day in the quarter, or 5 percent.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that the changes are "working" and that some types of sharing and engagement are up, even if the passive views of videos on Facebook are down. He also said 200 million people are members of "meaningful" groups, a figure he hopes will continue to double for the next few years.

Outlook

The company still has challenges ahead. Chief financial officer David Wehner said the company expects capital expenditures of $15 billion this year, at the high end of expectations, and revenue growth is also expected to decelerate this year. Expenses are expected to grow 50 to 60 percent, driven by safety investments, content acquisition and long-term innovation efforts.

Wehner added that the number of daily and monthly active users in Europe may be flat or down next quarter due to new privacy regulations, which could also impact revenue.

Facebook is also balancing investments in new initiatives such as virtual reality (Oculus) and media (the "Watch" tab). It's been more than a year since Facebook's annual developer conference, when Zuckerberg said the company was poised for "act two," a new augmented reality platform to rival Snapchat, with help from Facebook's other properties, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Zuckerberg said the company is working on WhatsApp for small business and improving advertising in the ephemeral "stories" products.

Facebook added on Wednesday it would buy back $9 billion more in shares, after initially announcing a $6 billion buyback.

"2018 is going to be an incredibly important year," Zuckerberg said on the call.