The social network barely exceeded investor expectations Thursday in its first earnings report as a public company.
This article was updated on July 27, 2012.
After two months of consternation following Facebook's IPO debacle, the social network's first earnings came out pretty much in line with Wall Street expectations.
However, the modest news didn't exactly placate investors' fears: After the earnings report was released, Facebook's after-hours stock price fell several percentage points, and its stock price hit an all-time low of $24.
As of Friday morning, Facebook's stock bottomed out at $23, a 40 percent drop in two months since the company went public.
Facebook's first earnings report is a good reminder for small companies about how to manage investor expectations after going public. Even though analysts had predicted slightly less revenue than the company reported, shareholders reacted skeptically to the news. However, had Facebook blasted through expectations, the stock would have likely jumped in the short term, but unless the company could sustain that growth, its long-term prospects, because of heightened expectations, would likely suffer.
"Growth is clearly slowing on both the user and revenue basis, and without guidance to make people believe it's growing, you have a large part of investor fear," BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield told NDTV. "The fact that there's no guidance in the press release likely has people concerned about the achievability of people's full year expectations.”
The company brought in $1.18 billion in revenue, slightly above analysts' expectation of $1.15 billion. Revenue from advertising was $992 million, representing 84% of total revenue and a 28% increase from the same quarter last year. The company also announced it now has 955 million monthly active users, up 29% from March 2012.
According to the earnings report, the company has also hired 1,315 employees in the last year.
Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and David Ebersman led the company's call. On everyone's mind was Facebook's focus on mobile ads. Zuckerberg did not disappoint, although he made no direct commitment to any type of specific mobile ad program.
"Mobile is a huge opportunity for Facebook," Zuckerberg said. "We're finding that people are quickly adopting our mobile services." People who use mobile are also 20% more active on Facebook as a whole, Zuckerberg said.
He added, "We're investing very heavily in improving our mobile apps. We've made some good progress in the last quarter."
Zuckerberg also signaled that the company would double down on its developer platform.
"Our vision for platform is bigger than most believe," he said. The company's "open graph" platform enables developers to develop more apps and programs for users.
Lastly, Zuckerberg indicated the company's interest in expanding the use of social ads--the ability for marketers to leverage a user's social graph.
Zuckerberg used an example: If someone "Likes" a restaurant, it's more compelling for their friends to see that Like, rather than receiving a direct ad from the restaurant.
Sandberg, in her presentation, noted that ad-recall is 98% more effective when an ad is shared by a friend, adding that the company will continue to invest in advertisers' ability to share content via "Sponsored Stories," as well as through a user's News Feed. She also indicated the company's continued foray into a real-time bidding platform, similar to Google's advertising platform.
Ebersmen, the company's CFO, indicated that shareholders should expect continued investments in human capital and research and development. The company plans to invest nearly $2 billion in capital expenses.
Asked about potential acquisitions, Zuckerberg was frank: "We have a very entrepreneurial culture and we want the type of people who will take risks. Often the best way to find those people is to find people working on their own companies."
In the second quarter, the company's GAAP loss from operations was $743 million, compared to a gain of $407 million for the second quarter of last year. However, this loss was expected due to share-based compensation and related payroll tax expenses resulting from the company's May IPO. Earnings per share, expected at 12 cents, came in precisely on target (on an adjusted basis).
Notably, the company also is reporting assets of nearly $15 billion--up from $6 billion six months previously.
Zynga's underwhelming quarterly earnings report, which sent shares tumbling 35%, cast a dark pall over the earnings call. In fact, Facebook shares fell 5% on news of Zynga's less-than-stellar performance.
"If Facebook were to miss earnings, the stock would be punished more than a typical earnings miss by a tech company given it would come on the heels of the disappointing IPO," Piper Jaffray noted earlier this week.
The anticipation leading up to the call was nearly palpable, especially after the company's May IPO debacle, which left investors deflated and grumbling under a sagging stock price. Before the call on Thursday, the Facebook's stock was priced at just above $27, having been priced at $38 on its first day of trading.