Facebook (META 2.88%) has seen unbelievable success since its launch and is now one of the biggest companies in the world -- but the social media leader still has significant growth potential to share with investors.
In this segment from Industry Focus: Tech, Motley Fool analyst Dylan Lewis makes the case for Facebook as a long-term investment. Find out how the company can still drive massive growth, some important performance metrics, the value in acquired platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp, and how founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg can lead the company forward.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This podcast was recorded on Feb. 10, 2017.
Dylan Lewis: I don't know if you've ever heard of this company ...
Gaby Lapera: [laughs] OK.
Lewis: ... it's Facebook. Formerly The Facebook. [laughs] But I'm guessing that you and many of our listeners are fairly familiar. For anyone who isn't, Facebook is basically the umbrella company for a bunch of different social platforms. Facebook, their namesake one, being the main one, but also Instagram, Facebook Messenger, another one of their main properties, and WhatsApp. So, really, this is a company that's looking to connect to people, build online engagement, create these communities and platforms where people can exchange content, exchange ideas, connect with each other. They finance all of that through advertisements. That's how they make the bulk of their money.
So, if you want to look at how the numbers break down for them, advertising makes up 98% of the company's revenue as of the most recent closed quarter earlier this month. Within that, mobile makes up 84% of that revenue, and that's up 80% year over year. To give you an idea of the growth rate -- because this is a business that's kind of in a little bit of a different phase than Shopify -- they are, at this point, just under a $400 billion market cap company. Shopify, for comparison, is a $5 billion market cap company. Facebook posted Q4 year-over-year growth, revenuewise, of 51%, and on EPS (earnings per share), it was 124% growth.
Lapera: That's incredible. So, Warren Buffett -- oh my God, I can't believe I'm doing this.
Lewis: Do it!
Lapera: I complained about, on every single show, someone said something about Warren Buffett, and now it's me.
Lewis: I heard you do that, so I intentionally wanted to leave him out of this discussion. Not that he would ever invest in Facebook.
Lapera: [groans] See, I love Warren Buffett. He's a nice guy. He actually lives in Nebraska. I lived near him at one point.
Lewis: You guys were practically neighbors.
Lapera: I drove past his house one time. But, no, Warren Buffett, one of the things that he talks about is, when a company gets really big, it's really hard for them to post astronomical growth. And that's pretty astronomical growth for a company that's really big already.
Lewis: Yes. Those are gaudy growth rates, and I think in the future, those will come down a little bit. We can talk about some of the reasons for that a little bit later on. But a lot of the reasons that I really like them as a company is, in spite of the fact that they are already a $400 billion market cap company, roughly, they have a ton of growth coming their way, and there's a lot to really like with their business.
I mentioned the revenue and EPS growth. But, if you look at their namesake platform, last quarter, Facebook recorded 1.86 billion monthly active users, 1.23 billion daily active users. That's good for 17% and 18% increase year over year. Think about the denominators that those are increasing on -- it's kind of crazy. Also, to put the number in context, there are about 7 billion people in the world. About half of them have access to the internet, and about half of those people are on Facebook monthly.
Lapera: We also tape the shows on video, if you ever want to see what we look like, Dylan's eyes are twinkling right now. [laughs]
Lewis: Yes. I get excited. [laughs] But, the point with that is, what really drives the business for them is users coming onto the platform -- growing that user base, and having them spend more time on the platform -- because those two metrics allow them to have more ads appear in people's feeds. When you see a business that already has a user base in the billions still adding more at a double-digit clip, I think that's pretty impressive. If you want to look at some of the growth opportunities for them with users, I think there's still some pretty big potential in the Asia-Pacific and rest of world regions. Most recently, those were up 25% and 19% year over year. So, a lot to like there.
I will caution that, in terms of the average revenue per user for those regions, or the value of those users, the strongest markets ad-wise are U.S., Europe, and Canada, because the consumer buying power is the strongest there, so the ad rates are commensurate with that. So, those might not necessarily be the same value in average revenue per user, but there's still a very long runway in a lot of those markets.
Beyond Facebook's core platform, though, one of the other reasons I really like the business is the scope of their properties and some of the opportunities that that opens up for them. I mentioned that they have Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger all have over a billion monthly active users. Instagram has over 500 million monthly active users. And a lot of those platforms benefit from what we call in tech "the network effect." I don't know if this is something you're familiar with, Gaby, but the idea is, as each property grows, the value proposition for that property to users is stronger, and it's more compelling to non-users. So, if I'm on Facebook and Sarah is on Facebook and we're two best friends, you're probably going to want to join Facebook.
Lapera: That's true, that's how I ended up on Facebook, that's exactly what happened.
Lewis: If that's how we're all communicating, if that's how we're all posting pictures, you just get sucked into it. That's something that you enjoy when you have those critical masses of users like they have on all these different platforms. Something to be kind of excited about is, when we look at the company's financials here, Facebook and Instagram are the two properties that they monetize. I think we are more or less at full monetization with Facebook. There will be growth, naturally, with user base growth. But in terms of ad load, we're kind of at the saturation point there. Instagram, they're still rolling stuff out. There's still some ramp there. But with WhatsApp and Messenger, they're still in really early days. And those are properties that have, combined, 1.5 billion monthly active users. If they can crack that nut and understand how to monetize those users effectively, I think the growth runway is fairly long for those other properties. So, I think that's something to like.
The last thing that I really love with this business is they're managed in a very Foolish way. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook's management really like to think with a three- to 10-year outlook and approach. They're very good in their quarterly calls about keeping investors in the loop about what the priorities are for that roadmap. Most recently, they talked a little bit about three years, looking to improve and expand the community they have continue to grow users, and continue to double down on pushes like live video, things that will engage people in their feeds, get people to come to the platform and interact with them more.
Five years out, the main priorities -- and, over the next five years is how you can think about that -- [are] Messenger and WhatsApp monetization, doing some more work with video and search, things like that. And more broadly, in 10 years, I don't know if you've heard about internet.org, it's a nonprofit that's largely funded by Facebook. That whole nonprofit is aimed at growing access to the internet worldwide. Like I mentioned before, there's about 3 billion people that have access to the internet of 7 billion in the world. Obviously, there's a lot of benevolence to wanting to make the entire world access the internet and have all the information and agency that enables. As those people come online, there's also the element of, well, they're probably going to be fairly familiar with Facebook. So, the 10-year plan for them is to continue to grow access to the internet and bring those people into their ecosystem as they do.
Some of the other stuff that they're targeting, which is a little bit farther afield from their current businesses but could be really interesting down the road, is investments in artificial intelligence. Right now, a lot of that is being used to tailor their news feeds and really provide people with the content that's most relevant to them. Then, they've made some splashes into virtual reality. I don't know if you heard about the acquisition of Oculus a couple years ago?
Lapera: No. [laughs]
Lewis: Well, it's a little different than what they typically do, getting into hardware and virtual reality. I think the market there isn't nearly as clear, and it's not really certain what the opportunity will be, or what adoption might be for consumers. But that's another field that they're playing in. With all of this long-term thinking, at the end of the day, it's going to be Mark Zuckerberg's show to run. The company and management have been very clear in setting themselves up so that he will maintain his controlling stake in Facebook. A little while back, they announced that they wanted to do at 3-to-1 stock split. What that will basically do is give existing shareholders two class C shares for every A and B they own. The class Cs will be non-voting, and Zuckerberg will be able to give away, via his charitable efforts, the C shares, and maintain his super-voting B shares and control of the company. So, you have a management that thinks long-term, and you have the corporate setup where they are going to be able to continue to think long-term without really having to worry about any major shareholder coming in and pushing them around. So, I really like that as well.