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1 Growth Engine Facebook Investors Shouldn't Overlook

By Brian Withers and Brian Feroldi - Updated Apr 15, 2021 at 1:52PM

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It's a possible gold mine in the making.

Facebook (META 5.10%) is best known as the largest social media company in the world, but it has more than one trick up its sleeve to drive future growth. On a Fool Live episode recorded on March 17, Fool contributors Brian Feroldi and Brian Withers discuss the latest quarter and what to watch as the social media giant moves into virtual reality.

Brian Feroldi: Facebook. The only recent update that I saw since now and the last time they announced their earnings result was that they're launching a global campaign to help organize the COVID vaccine effort and they are saying that they plan on using their platform to help 50 million people get COVID vaccines. That does show you some of the power of having a network that is enormous. Speaking of enormous networks, at the end the year, they ended with 2.6 billion daily active users. That was up 15%. Don't believe the people that say everyone's leaving Facebook or deleting Facebook. They grew 15% off of an enormous base. The monthly active users now eclipsed 3.3 billion people, which is just about half of humanity. Mind-boggling.

The fourth quarter, their revenue grew 33%. That was an acceleration over their full-year growth rate, which was 22%, also about double the speed of their user growth, which means average revenue per user is rising. Advertisers are devoting more of their budgets to Facebook. Expense growth was relatively modest for the company, grew 25%. Meanwhile, net income grew 53%. Now, Facebook is doing something with that capital. It is using it to buy back stock. It recently authorized a $25 billion stock buyback program, that was in addition to another eight billion dollars that it had on its books.

What to watch for 2021? No. 1, regulators. How are regulators going to go after this company, especially in Europe? No. 2, Apple's changes with IDFA. That could potentially make it harder for companies like Facebook to monetize their users and for advertisers in general. Facebook called it out as a long-term headwind. How will they overcome that obstacle? I don't know. That's for them to figure out. No. 3, don't overlook Oculus. It's very easy to do so and it's still a tiny portion of this company's revenue. But their "other revenue," which includes Oculus, grew 156% last quarter. Facebook is positioning itself to be the Apple of augmented reality hardware. If they can claim that title, that is a massive long-term growth driver for this business.

Brian Withers: Yeah. Brian, I love the Oculus business. It's been a while that it's been behind the scenes. Is there anything that we should watch, I guess, other than announcements to know that it's starting to catch on?

Feroldi: Yeah. Definitely look at the revenue growth for that category, they have rolled out, I think they're on Oculus 2 or Oculus 3 now. Every time they do it, obviously, it gets better, higher-performance and they also lower the price. Really getting to a price point where every consumer can afford it is going to be the thing that drives them. What I like about Facebook, too, is that they don't necessarily have to make money on the hardware. They can find lots of ways to make money on the ecosystem. They just want this device to be in your home. If they can do that, and if people don't mind buying a Facebook product, which [laughs] some people might mind, I think it could be a long-term gold mine for the company.

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