Thursday, April 25, 2019

Facebook Expects $5B FTC Fine

Facebook stock rose as much as 9% in after-hours trading despite the company announcing that it could take a one-time charge of as much $5 billion due to an ongoing Federal Trade Commission inquiry.

According to CNBC, the company exceeded revenue expectations and matched estimates for its daily active user growth. Here’s what Facebook reported:
  • Earnings: 85 cents per share (can’t be compared to analyst expectations because of a one time charge)
  • Revenue: $15.08 billion, vs. $14.98 billion, forecast by Refinitiv
  • Daily active users: 1.56 billion, vs. 1.56 billion forecast by FactSet
  • Monthly active users: 2.38 billion, vs. 2.37 billion forecast by FactSet
  • Average revenue per user: $6.42, vs. $6.39 forecast by FactSet
The company said it counts 2.7 billion monthly users across the its family of apps, which is unchanged compared to last quarter. Facebook saw its user base in Europe grow to 286 million daily active users, up from 282 million last quarter. The company’s user base in the U.S. and Canada remained flat quarter-to-quarter at 186 million. The company said average revenue per user was $6.42, up 16% from $5.53 a year ago.

The FTC has been probing Facebook since March 2018 following reports that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly access the data of 87 million Facebook users. To date, the FTC’s biggest fine against a tech company was in 2012 when Google agreed to pay a $22.5 million penalty due to its privacy practices.

Mark Zuckerberg
The company is undergoing a major transition from News Feed ads as it grows ad revenue from its newer Stories products. CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp’s Stories features now have 500 million daily active users, joining Instagram, which hit that mark in January. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday said the company now has 3 million advertisers using Stories ads across Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.

Stories was the largest contributor of year-to-year impression growth for the company during the first quarter, Chief Financial Officer David Wehner told analysts on Wednesday.

During the call with analysts, Zuckerberg touched on his March call for regulation, saying he doesn’t think people “want private companies making so many decisions around speech, elections and data privacy without a more robust democratic process.”

“There should be a public process for determining what is allowed and required for keeping harmful content to a minimum,” he said.

The company’s shift to privacy will “be a central focus for the company for the next five years or longer,” Zuckerberg said on Wednesday. He added that he does not expect the privacy pivot to be a real contributor to Facebook’s business for “the next couple of years.”

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