Facebook's Day Of Reckoning: Blip Or Sign Of Broader Turn?

Adjust Comment Print

In response to what Facebook says are "specific threats" to the safety of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his family, the company says it's spending another $10 million on top of what's already a record personal security budget for its chief executive and founder.

For numerous world's richest people, losing $16.8 billion in a day would be a wipeout.

The stock value drop amounted to a $119-billion loss. "There are always going to be these one-day disasters".

Mark Zuckerberg did his best in the earnings call to try to spin this decline as something positive for investors-as if making less money was an active choice the company was pursuing to benefit consumers, rather than a side-effect of everything it's being forced to do in the face of growing public concerns.

The report, which marked Facebook's first full quarter since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, startled investors with a bevy of red flags about setbacks to its revenue and user growth. But that was perhaps expected, in the aftermath of the data privacy scandal and the constant debate about the company's moderation policies for content posted on the social network.

Facebook's shares later rebounded, but at the time of this writing they remained deep in the red, down by a little more than 20%.

The plunge followed Facebook's warning late Wednesday that its revenue growth will slow down significantly for at least the remainder of the year and that expenses will continue to skyrocket.

Also alarming to investors: Facebook's growth is slowing with users in some of its most lucrative markets. A decade ago, nearly no one could have imagined that Facebook would have more than 2 billion users, much less that its family of apps - Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger - would also count members in the billions. Monthly active users rose 11 percent to 2.23 billion - below most estimates of 2.25 billion. The company is still grappling with blowback from the revelation that political data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed data on up to 87 million Facebook (FB) users.

Net income was $5.11 billion, or $1.74 a share, beating analysts' estimate of $1.71 a share. Controversies came and went, but nothing stuck.

New options Facebook is offering users to opt out of certain data collection - inspired in part by a new privacy law in Europe - could lead to less advertising revenue. "We suspect Facebook is sticking with its historical playbook and will, in fact, beat these lower numbers". The company remains in a dominant position in mobile advertising alongside Alphabet Inc.'s Google.

The big story from the earnings report was the forecast that revenue will decelerate in the second half of 2018, Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser wrote in a research note.