Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Following a slight sell-off in the social network's stock price in November, when management's prediction for aggressive spending in 2017 spooked investors, the market may be hoping the company can deliver news good enough for shares to rebound.
For Facebook's fourth quarter, investors will probably be paying particularly close attention to the company's revenue and EPS growth, user growth, and any commentary management provides about its expectations for 2017.
Revenue and earnings per share
Facebook's theme of consistent, uncanny growth -- both in revenue and EPS -- continued into the company's fourth quarter. Revenue hit $7 billion, up 56% year over year. And EPS skyrocketed 165% to $0.82. In addition, Facebook's closely watched non-GAAP EPS increased 91%, from $0.57 in the year-ago quarter to $1.09 in Q4.
Based on management commentary during Facebook's third-quarter earnings call, investors should expect another period of rapid growth in Q4. While management did say it expects growth to "come down meaningfully" in the future, it doesn't expect this trend to play out until the second half of 2017. In other words, Facebook continues to expect its year-over-year increases in ad loads on its social networks to help drive significant revenue growth in Q4.
However, this doesn't mean management expects revenue growth to stay at current levels. Management did say it still expected fourth-quarter revenue growth to decline compared with Q3, since Q4 will be lapping a strong fourth quarter of 2015. In addition, the company expects its payments and fees revenue, which accounts for under 3% of Facebook's revenue, to be lower in the fourth quarter of 2016 than it was in the fourth quarter of 2015.
With all this in mind, analysts have big expectations for the quarter, but they aren't expecting growth to be on par with the 56% year-over-year revenue growth and 91% non-GAAP EPS growth Facebook reported in Q3. On average, analysts expect Facebook to report fourth-quarter revenue and non-GAAP EPS of $8.46 billion and $1.30, up 45% and 65% from results in the year-ago quarter, respectively.
User growth has been a strong point for Facebook. In Facebook's third quarter, the company's monthly and daily active users on its core Facebook social network increased 16% and 17%, respectively, putting monthly and daily active users at about 1.8 billion and 1.2 billion.
Further, Facebook's WhatsApp and Messenger now each have over 1 billion monthly active users. And Facebook's Instagram was at 500 million monthly active users when the company reported third-quarter results but has since announced that its monthly active users have hit 600 million.
Looking ahead to 2017
Finally, given that it was probably Facebook's outlook for big spending and slower growth in 2017 that caused a sell-off in the stock price from around $130 to as low as $115 in the weeks following the social network's third-quarter financial results, investors may want to tune in to any updates management has for its expectations next year. Management's forecast for a significant deceleration in growth in the second half of 2017, as well as management's expectations for 2017 to be a big investment year, lacked any concrete ranges, failing to give investors a more specific idea of what to expect. Maybe when Facebook reports fourth-quarter results, management will provide more specific expectations for 2017.