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Facebook Inc.'s Most Promising Chart

By James Sullivan – Mar 12, 2016 at 6:40AM

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Where Facebook gets its revenue from geographically bodes well for the company in the near, medium, and long terms.

Image source: Facebook.

Facebook (META 23.28%) has amassed a $300 billion market cap 12 years after its founding, but the growth story is far from over. The breakdown of its FY 2015 Average Revenue per User (ARPU) by geographic area should make shareholders excited about the future of their company.

Data source: Facebook

Three tiers of ARPU
ARPU is broken down geographically into four areas: U.S. & Canada, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Rest of World. A Worldwide figure is the combination of all of these users. The monetization of the different regions breaks down into three tiers that nicely illustrates the present and near-term future of Facebook as well as its medium-term and long-term opportunities.

U.S. & Canada: near-term
The Worldwide ARPU for FY 2015 was $11.96, up 27% year over year. In U.S. & Canada, the figure came in at $41.65, which was up 45% year over year. This is, by far, the region with the highest and fastest-growing ARPU.Facebook was founded in the United States and has been operating in the U.S. and Canada for much longer than in most other parts of the world. Internet use is widespread, wealth and disposable income are high, and spending on advertising has been long established.

The company should be able to grow its users, but with almost half of the entire U.S. population already on the service, the days of explosive user growth are close to finished. As more advertising shifts away from television and print, and toward Facebook and a handful of competitors such as Alphabet, it should be able to increase ARPU while modestly increasing its user base in the U.S. and Canada. This revenue will drive the company in the near term.

Europe: medium-term
Europe had a FY 2015 ARPU of $14.32 -- above the Worldwide figure, but well below U.S. & Canada -- and a year-over-year growth rate of 23%. European economies are mature, but Facebook's presence is less ubiquitous. In Germany, only around 30% of the population is on the service. In France, the number is around 37%. 

Overall revenue will increase as more users join the service, but so too should ARPU. Advertisers want to be where the most possible customers are. Facebook will be able to charge clients more, provide more targeted ads, and generate a higher ARPU in Europe as the penetration level of its service approaches the 50% level found in the U.S. This revenue will help drive the company in the medium term as the U.S. & Canada become mature markets.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image source: Facebook.

Asia-Pacific and Rest of World: long-term
Asia-Pacific had a FY 2015 ARPU of $5.45 and a 22% growth rate. Rest of World had ARPU of $3.86 and a 15% growth rate. These numbers pale in comparison to U.S. & Canada, and they trail Europe as well. Nevertheless, the figures bode well for the long-term success of Facebook. In the 2015 annual report, management outlined its vision of future growth:

We expect that user growth in the future will be primarily concentrated in those regions where ARPU is relatively lower, such as Asia-Pacific and Rest of World, such that worldwide ARPU may continue to increase at a slower rate relative to ARPU in any geographic region, or potentially decrease even if ARPU increases in each geographic region.

User growth, even with declining ARPU, can lead to an increase in overall revenue. Generating $10 per user and having 4 billion users is better than generating $12 per user off a base of 1.5 billion. Over the next five to 10 years, worldwide ARPU may decline as Facebook adds billions of new users in Asia-Pacific and other developing nations. Over the very long term, it may be proven that management was being overly conservative with their estimates. As GDP, average income, and Internet penetration increase in countries such as India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia over the next 20 years, there is little reason to believe ARPU in these countries can't begin to approximate ARPU in Europe -- and perhaps U.S. & Canada, too.

That management feels comfortable with Facebook's prospects and growth story even if worldwide ARPU declines shows the vastness of the opportunities that lie ahead. Over the next few years, worldwide ARPU may decline from current levels, but over the very long term, the difference in ARPU by region will not be as stark as it is today. If this proves to be the case, we're looking at a wonderful investment in a business with market-beating characteristics.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. James Sullivan owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares) and Facebook. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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