It looks like pandemonium in Palo Alto.
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) stock just had its worst day in its history with shares falling 19% after a disappointing earnings report. For the social's network's detractors, the post-earnings sell off may be a sweet comeuppance.
The company has been a target for criticism since it was found to have enabled Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. March reports that Cambridge Analytica had misused Facebook user data in order to manipulate voters didn't do anything to shift public opinion, and prompted the #DeleteFacebook campaign.
According to the market, there are good reasons for the sell-off. Revenue growth missed estimates, increasing 42% to $13.2 billion, below expectations at $13.3 billion. Daily active user growth slowed to historic lows, as Facebook added 22 million DAU's sequentially. The platform's DAU metric looked particularly bad in Europe, where it fell from 282 million to 279 million sequentially, thanks to the region's new GDPR protocol. In North America, meanwhile, DAU growth was flat on a sequential basis and hasn't grown now for three quarters in a row.
Despite those numbers, the lingering backlash against the brand, and the crash in the stock price, there's no great reason for investors to panic. Here are three reasons why:
1. Growth is still impressive
The biggest red flag in the report came when CFO David Wehner said on the earnings call, "Our total revenue growth rate decelerated approximately 7 percentage points in Q2 compared to Q1. Our total revenue growth rates will continue to decelerate in the second half of 2018, and we expect our revenue growth rates to decline by high single digit percentages from prior quarters sequentially in both Q3 and Q4."
It's not surprising that such a forecast would strike fear in the market, but even in a worst-case scenario, according that prediction, revenue growth would fall 9% in the third and fourth quarter each, but that would still mean the company's top line would improve 24% in the fourth quarter. That's a number most companies, especially ones the size of Facebook, would kill for, and it still puts the company on par with the likes of tech behemoths Alphabet and Amazon.
That slowing growth may seem like a problem relative to Facebook's previous pace, but the company may just be a victim of its own success here. Facebook's scorching hot growth was eventually going to slow down, and in fact, management has been warning about slowing growth for several quarters now.
Facebook's earnings per share, by comparison, is expected to nearly double from $5.39 last year to $10.05 in 2020 , representing 23% compound annual growth. In other words, the company still has plenty of growth ahead of it.
2. The stock price was just here
It's rare for a stock the size of Facebook to lose nearly 20% in a single session, coughing up more than $100 billion in market cap along the way. However, the crash may owe just as much, if not more, to Facebook's sudden rise than it does to the underwhelming report.
Following the crash after the Cambridge Analytical scandal, Facebook shares rose dramatically over the last few months, gaining more than 40% during that time. The stock was trading at $176 as recently as May 4. In other words, this sell-off may be about letting air out of the stock, which may have run up too far too fast. We saw a similar response to Netflix's latest earnings report, which saw its share fall double digits after it reported weaker-than-expected subscriber additions.
It's important for Facebook investors to step back and take long-term view here and see the proverbial forest for the trees. The financial media likes to make a big deal out of a single-day crash because it's a good story, but Facebook is still up 81% over the last three years and 413% over the last five years. Seen on a longer time horizon, today's sell-off looks like little more than a footnote in the stock's dramatic growth.
3. Management is saying the right things
Cambridge Analytica and Russian hacking have become shorthand among some detractors for the greater belief that Facebook is a bad company that's having a negative effect on the world. Though it may be easy to dismiss the social network because of those scandals, the reality is that Facebook plays a meaningful role in the lives of billions of people who choose to go onto its platforms to connect with friends, family, and others. Overall, the company is clearly a positive force, despite the negative media attention.
Management's recent initiative to emphasize connecting people on the platform, rather than viral video or news, reinforces its mission to better connect the world and is the right move to create value for its users. In the recent earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "We've launched multiple changes over the last half to News Feed that encouraged more interaction and engagement between people and we plan to keep launching more like this." He also underscored the importance of Facebook groups for people like new parents, those suffering from rare diseases, military families, and others as he explained another initiative the company was launching to make it easier to join groups. Management understands the product is strongest when it's building and fostering community, because that's what makes Facebook valuable to users.
COO Sheryl Sandberg also addressed the security issue, enumerating the steps the company had taken to make advertising and advertisers more transparent, and the investments made in security and privacy. Despite the recent stumbles, management is taking the necessary steps to right the ship.
2018 may have been a forgettable year for Facebook from a PR perspective, but the business remains strong. The company's products attract 2.5 billion daily users, which in turn allows it to provide unique value for advertisers. That combination should ensure the company's continued long-term growth.
Quarterly revenue growth of 50% was never going to last forever, but Facebook still has plenty of opportunity in front of it. Talking of Facebook's demise may be fashionable, but it's foolish given the numbers.