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Facebook Posts a Monster Quarter Despite Scandals

By Evan Niu, CFA – Apr 26, 2018 at 3:30PM

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The social networking giant's net profit in the first quarter jumped 63%.

Just like last quarter, the ongoing controversies enveloping Facebook (META -2.88%) haven't appeared to make a dent in the actual business. The social networking giant reported first-quarter earnings last night, and the solid results have allayed investor fears. The fundamentals are as strong as ever, data leaks and privacy scandals notwithstanding.

Perhaps most importantly, users really do seem unperturbed by the avalanche of negative headlines in recent months.

Mark Zuckerberg speaking on stage

Mark Zuckerberg. Image source: Facebook.

The headline metrics

Total revenue soared 49% to $12 billion, driven by a 50% jump in ad revenue. Payments revenue was essentially flat. Total costs and expenses grew just 39% to $6.5 billion, allowing Facebook to enjoy some operating leverage and margin expansion -- operating margin expanded to 46%. Net income rose by 63% to $5 billion, or $1.69 per share.

Mobile ads represented 91% of ad revenue, up from 85% a year ago. That's the highest proportion of mobile ads the company has posted yet, and mobile ads have brought in $39 billion on a trailing-12-month basis. Average revenue per user (ARPU) declined sequentially in all regions due to seasonal factors but remains strong.

Region

ARPU (MRQ)

U.S. and Canada

$23.59

Europe

$8.12

Asia-Pacific

$2.46

Rest of world

$1.68

Worldwide

$5.53

Data source: Facebook. MRQ = most recent quarter.

Daily active users (DAUs) increased sequentially by 48 million to 1.45 billion. In the U.S. and Canada, DAUs rose modestly to 185 million. The fourth quarter had marked the first time that North American DAUs had posted a sequential decline, which management had attributed to that market being very mature and saturated. Most importantly, North American DAUs did not decline in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which broke in mid-March (near the end of the quarter).

Chart showing DAUs increasing over time

Image source: Facebook.

Monthly active users (MAUs) grew sequentially by 67 million to 2.2 billion. Much like DAUs, North American MAUs did not register a drop, but increased by 2 million. Most of the MAU growth came from international markets.

Two important takeaways from the call

While the overall user metrics look solid, it's worth noting that Facebook declined to provide any color on time spent, a figure the company has often shared in the past. On the conference call, CFO David Wehner said:

In terms of time spent on Facebook, we're not providing a specific update on that. I would note that Mark talked about some of the changes we're making to focus on connections over consumption. We're seeing a decrease in certain types of time spent, such as passive video consumption as a result of that and an increase in areas like sharing. So, we're not really optimizing the business on time spent, but rather the kind of the quality of conversations and connections.

The European Union is preparing to implement its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) next month, which has sweeping implications for Facebook's operations in the region, as well as all advertising businesses generally. Facebook expects European MAUs and DAUs to be "flat to slightly down sequentially" in the second quarter as a result. Currently, management does not expect ad revenue to take a meaningful hit, but the potential is there, so Facebook is "monitoring this closely."

Despite the scandals, Facebook just posted a monster quarter.

Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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