Facebook 4Q results surpass estimates, stock falls
The inroads Facebook made in mobile advertising in the final half of last year impressed Bruno del Ama, CEO of Global X Funds, which owns about 50,000 shares of the company's stock. "We have been surprised about how aggressive they have been," he said.
Facebook has been trying to squeeze in more mobile adverting without alienating users who are more interested in conversing with their friends than being subjected to a marketing blitz. The company appears to be striking the right balance so far, based on the number of people still regularly using the mobile apps, said Kessler of Raymond James.
While Facebook's accelerated revenue growth is a positive sign, there's still a feeling that the company could be doing even more to mine revenue from its mobile audience, Kessler said. He expected Facebook's mobile ad revenue to rise to 25 percent of the company's ad sales or about $350 million in the fourth quarter.
Facebook's monthly user base grew 25 percent from a year earlier to 1.06 billion accounts. About 680 million of them access Facebook using a mobile device each month. The company also said that the number of mobile users who access the site every day surpassed daily users on the Web for the first time in the fourth quarter.
As of the stock market's close on Wednesday, Facebook's stock was up 60 percent since the company's third-quarter earnings report came out in October. But it still hasn't hit its initial public offering price of $38.
The May 18 IPO was by far the biggest one for an Internet company since Google's in 2004, but the excitement quickly deflated. With Wall Street now clamoring for even more mobile ad growth, Facebook's toughest task will be to increase the number of ads on the social network without alienating users.
Pachter suspects that investors may be worried Facebook's expenses are starting to outstrip its revenue growth. That was the case in the fourth quarter when the company's costs, excluding employee stock compensation, soared 67 percent from the previous year to $849 million, mainly due to hiring and infrastructure costs such as data centers and servers. And Facebook promises to keep on spending.
David Ebersman, Facebook's chief financial officer, said Facebook expects total expenses, excluding stock compensation costs, to grow by about 50 percent in 2013. In 2012, these costs amounted to $2.83 billion, an increase of 63 percent from 2011.
The company ended the year with 4,600 employees, a 44 percent increase from the end of 2011.
AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story from San Francisco.