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Facebook, Inc. Earnings: Mark Your Calendar

By Daniel Sparks - Oct 9, 2017 at 5:06PM

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Expectations are high. Can Facebook deliver?

Facebook (META -1.64%) stock has been on a tear this year. The stock is up an impressive 51% year to date. With such a strong upward trend recently, investors have high expectations going into the social network's third-quarter earnings release. Can Facebook deliver?

Facebook is scheduled to report its third-quarter results on Nov. 1. Ahead of the earnings release, here's a look at some of the areas of Facebook's business that will be worth checking on.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg presents 10-year plan at F8 conference in 2016

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image source: Facebook.

But first, here's a look back at Facebook's results for its most recent quarter.

Metric

Q2 2017

Q2 2016

Change (YOY)

Revenue

$9.3 billion

$6.4 billion

45%

Operating margin

47%

42%

500 basis points

Monthly active users

2.01 billion

1.7 billion

17%

EPS

1.32

0.78

69%

Data source: Facebook quarterly SEC filings. Table source: author. YOY = year over year.

Revenue growth

Facebook's second-quarter results didn't disappoint. The company's $9.3 billion in revenue was well above analysts' consensus expectation for $9.2 billion. In addition, the $9.3 billion helped Facebook serve investors a handsome 45% year-over-year jump in revenue during the period, keeping up the company's strong revenue growth recently.

However, Facebook's revenue growth is expected to come down meaningfully in the social network's third quarter. Since last year, Facebook management has been warning investors that during the second half of 2017, its revenue growth rates will slow as ad load plays a less significant role in driving ad revenue growth.

On average, analysts expect Facebook to report third-quarter revenue of $9.83 billion, up about 40% year over year -- still solid growth, but notably lower than last quarter's year-over-year growth.

User growth

Facebook's monthly active users recently passed 2 billion members, highlighting the company's dominance as the world's largest social network. But growth in Facebook's monthly active users doesn't seem to be slowing. So, investors should look for similar year-over-year growth in monthly active users in Facebook's third quarter compared to the 17% year-over-year jump in users Facebook saw in its second quarter. This would put monthly active users at about 2.09 billion users, or up about 4% sequentially. 

Messaging

Facebook's internet-based messaging apps -- Messenger and WhatsApp -- have been becoming increasingly important to Facebook's business. And the social networking giant continued to rapidly execute on rolling out features for its messaging services during Q3, suggesting this trend will continue.

Facebook highlighted the growing importance of Messenger during Q3 when it said it rolled out a "Messages" objective for marketers to choose from when selecting the primary purpose of their ads. 

Dropdown box allows marketers to choose "Messages" as the primary purpose for their advertisement.

Image source: Facebook.

Facebook explained the new option in a blog post:

Using this new objective, ads that open conversations in Messenger will now reach people more likely to reply to your business, helping move customers from consideration to action. This means that click to Messenger ads are now more efficient than ever, increasing the value of campaigns that drive traffic to Messenger.

While it will be helpful for management to provide some commentary on how efforts like these are helping Messenger become more integral to Facebook's business, investors shouldn't expect the impact to be very noticeable yet. Facebook management warned during the company's second-quarter earnings call that any catalysts from messaging are not expected to offset an anticipated deceleration in revenue growth caused by ad load being a less significant driver in the second half of the year.

Investors will get a better look at Facebook's business after it reports its results after market close on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

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