Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) smashed analyst estimates in its key holiday-quarter report. Revenue at the social media giant jumped 30% year-over-year to $16.9 billion, easily topping estimates of $16.4 billion, while earnings per share rose from $1.44 to $2.38, well ahead of the $2.19 mark analysts had projected.
Operating margin continued to narrow, falling from 57% to 46%, but that was expected as the company invested in increased headcount, which was up 42%, and spent on better technology for solving privacy issues and protecting the platform from hacking, fake news, and other such challenges. Operating income increased modestly, up 6%, to $7.8 billion as the bulk of the profit growth came from a sharply lower tax rate, which was expected.
"We've fundamentally changed how we run our company to focus on the biggest social issues," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in the earnings release, "and we're investing more to build new and inspiring ways for people to connect."
Facebook continued to demonstrate solid user growth globally as daily active users were up 9% to 1.52 billion, and monthly active users also increased 9% to 2.32 billion.
Ahead of the fourth-quarter earnings report, investors were looking for signs that the social media giant could weather last year's storms as 2018 was probably Facebook's worst year as a public company. The stock fell 26% in 2018 after a series of public relations crises, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, mounting concerns about user privacy, and a #DeleteFacebook campaign.
The early answer to that question is a resounding yes. Facebook executed well during the key holiday season, which is typically its strongest as its advertising business is buoyed by the holiday shopping frenzy. Investors will have to await Facebook's earnings call (it starts at 5 p.m. Eastern time) to get its 2019 guidance, but it's not a surprise to see the stock surging 6.6% immediately following the earnings release.