It's safe to say that investors had some concerns about Facebook (META 2.79%) going into its third-quarter earnings report Monday afternoon. The stock fell about 7% over the past month as investors worried about the social network's increased scrutiny from the government and negative press from some media outlets. Further, investors were likely particularly concerned about Facebook's top-line momentum in the second half of the year after Snap missed expectations last week and provided soft fourth-quarter guidance.
While some of the headwinds that Snap has been facing do seem to be impacting Facebook, the damage isn't as bad as anticipated -- particularly considering Facebook stock's conservative valuation. The growth stock is arguably already priced to reflect a challenging operating environment.
Here's a closer look at Facebook's impressive top- and bottom-line momentum in the face of some meaningful headwinds.
35% revenue growth
After missing the low end of its guidance range and guiding for fourth-quarter revenue to be substantially below analysts' consensus forecast, Snap had investors in digital ad stocks worried last week. Indeed, a sell-off of many digital advertising stocks after Snap's earnings likely meant many investors no longer expected these companies to report results in line with analysts' expectations in the second half of 2021.
While Facebook's top line did slightly miss analyst estimates, the miss might not have been as bad as some investors feared. The company grew revenue 35% year over year to $29 billion. Analysts, on average, were expecting revenue of $29.6 billion.
Helping the quarter was double-digit growth in unique daily active users across the company's family of apps: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Unique daily active users across these apps rose 11% year over year to 2.81 billion. Unique monthly active users across these apps rose 12% year over year to 3.53 billion.
Though Facebook missed estimates on its top line, it still managed to grow its earnings per share faster than expected. Earnings per share grew 19% year over year, or 34% when adjusted to exclude a one-time income tax benefit in the year-ago quarter.
Impressively, Facebook was able to pull this earnings growth off while growing its total operating expenses by 38% to $18.6 billion.
Building on its strong operating results in recent years, Facebook now has $58 billion of cash.
Robust holiday-quarter guidance
As was the case for Snap, Facebook's fourth-quarter revenue guidance missed expectations. But the miss wasn't nearly as bad as Snap's was. Facebook said it expected fourth-quarter revenue to be between $31.5 billion and $34 billion. This compares to analysts' consensus forecast for revenue of $35 billion. This outlook, Facebook management explained, reflects expected challenges from ad tracking and measurement in iOS as well significant uncertainty related to macroeconomic and COVID-19-related factors. Comparatively, analysts were expecting Snap to guide for fourth-quarter revenue of $1.36 billion but management instead guided for revenue of just $1.165 billion to $1.205 billion during the period.
Zooming out from the hustle and bustle of analyst estimates, Facebook's fourth-quarter guidance is notable in isolation. The midpoint of the guidance range implies 17% revenue growth -- and that's on top of 33% growth in the fourth quarter of 2020.