Facebook Surges After Blowout Earnings, Buyback Boost: "Nothing That Was Feared, Happened"

Despite reporting blowout earnings, and beating on every single line time, Twitter failed to close in the green today, fading a 13% early spike, and continuing the curse of the Q1 earnings season in which the more powerful the beat, the more shocking the Fed.

So will Facebook succeed where its smaller social media peer failed, especially with the world so keenly focused to see if Facebook indeed suffered a sharp drop in users as a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the #DeleteFacebook campaign?

Well, moments ago Facebook reported earnings and, just like Facebook it too beat on the top and bottom line, reporting revenue of $11.97BN, above both the average consensus exp. of $11.41BN and the highest sellside estimate of $11.73BN. The revenue in the quarter was just shy of record, and only Q4 2017 surpassed it. Furthermore, advertising revenue was $11.80BN, or virtually all, while mobile ad revenue was 91% of total.

A breakdown of Facebook's historical Q1 revenues from Bloomberg:

  • Q1 2018: $11.9 billion
  • Q1 2017: $8.0 billion
  • Q1 2016: $5.4 billion
  • Q1 2015: $3.5 billion
  • Q1 2014: $2.5 billion
  • Q1 2013: $1.5 billion
  • Q1 2012: $1.1 billion
  • Q1 2011: $731 million

EPS likewise beat, with FB reporting $1.69, also beating both the average and highest sellside estimates of $1.35 and $1.52 respectively.

It's worth noting that while revenue rose by 49% Y/Y, costs increased by 39% to $6.5BN, which resulted in a 46% operating margin, above the 41% from a year ago. The company also reported that its effective tax rate was only 11%. No surprise here.

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When it comes to the all important DAU and MAU, Facebook reported monthly active users of 2.20BN, just beating estimates of 2.19BN, while daily active users came in line with expectations at 1.45BN. (charts  below). 

However, none of these numbers provide much detail about the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal which happened at the very end of the quarter.

More operational and financial highlights:

  • Daily active users (DAUs) – DAUs were 1.45 billion on average for March 2018, an increase of 13% year-over-year, Exp. 1.45 billion
  • Monthly active users (MAUs) – MAUs were 2.20 billion as of March 31, 2018, an increase of 13% year-over-year, Exp. 2.19 billion.
  • Mobile advertising revenue – Mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 91% of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2018, up from approximately 85% of advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2017.
  • Capital expenditures – Capital expenditures for the first quarter of 2018 were $2.81 billion.
  • Cash and cash equivalents and marketable securities – Cash and cash equivalents and marketable securities were $43.96 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2018.
  • Headcount – Headcount was 27,742 as of March 31, 2018, an increase of 48% year-over-year.

So how is Facebook doing so well despite all the controversy? Well, as Bloomberg notes, the company remains the best option for advertisers on mobile phones, especially now that we know how much discrete information the company collects about everyone. In the online ad space, Facebook and Google continue to capture the majority of the growth in digital advertising.

Commenting on the results, GBH Insights head of tech research Dan Ives said:

"Facebook delivered its much anticipated 1Q18 (March) results which came in ahead of Street expectations and should give the bulls finally something to hang their hat on after the company (and its investors) have just gone through the darkest chapter in Facebook’s history post Cambridge."

"On the all-important user front with engagement and user defections a clear worry heading into earnings and causing major agita on the Street, Facebook delivered DAU of 1.45 vs. the Street at 1.45 billion and MAU of 2.20 vs. the Street’s 2.20 billion estimate, which we would characterize as a relief given fears of missing this number were running rampant."

Bloomberg's Sarah Frier was just as optimistic, noting that "nothing that investors were super worried about happened. No slowdown in user growth (though we didn't get numbers on engagement). No problems with revenue. But you can bet that the call will still have difficult questions. Cambridge Analytica happened at the end of the quarter. We're not seeing the impact in these numbers."

But perhaps even more important than Facebook's earnings and user numbers, was the news that in April, the company increased the amount authorized under its share repurchase program by an additional $9.0bn; originally FB was authorized to repurchase up to $6.0b of Class A common stock under the repurchase program. Which means that as Zuckerberg has been selling a record amount, Facebook itself has been buying.

Here are the key slides from the company's Q1 presentation.

Daily Active Users: the US appears to have topped out at 185 million


Monthly Active Users: here the US and Canada saw a 2 million increase to 241 million. This means that two thirds of all Americans and Canadians are on Facebook at least once a month.

Revenue: all advertising, with US and Canada responsible for roughly half of total

ARPU: continues to rise on a Y/Y basis

Income from operations: second highest of all time.

Net income: thanks to the plunge in the tax rate, net income hit an all time high.

Capex: more than doubled

With all that said, shares have spiked, peaking at $167.25 so far after hours. Putting the move in context, if they open here on Thursday they'll be just below where they began the week.

And here is Bloomberg's take: "Looking at the share move, it's positive but not a major sigh of relief -- shares are still behind where they were when the Cambridge Analytica crisis first broke. Wall Street still wants to hear more from Zuckerberg."