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Facebook shares slipped 1.5% in extended trading after closing at $146.22 in New York. Photo: Bloomberg
Facebook shares slipped 1.5% in extended trading after closing at $146.22 in New York. Photo: Bloomberg

Facebook results miss revenue estimates, shares slide

Facebook's third-quarter revenue rose 33% to $13.73 billion, compared to the $13.8 billion analysts estimated

San Francisco: Facebook Inc., which had warned of rising costs and slowing growth, reported quarterly revenue roughly in line with expectations and profit that beat analysts’ forecasts. And despite scandals around fake news and election interference, it added more users, too. Third-quarter revenue rose 33% to $13.73 billion, compared to the $13.8 billion analysts estimated. Profit rose to $1.76 a share, well ahead of Wall Street projections, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Monthly active users (MAUs) totaled 2.27 billion, up 10% from a year earlier. Three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expected 2.28 billion, on average. Facebook changed how it counts users, and without that update MAUs would have been 2.28 billion in the period, it said.

Facebook earlier this year said revenue growth rates would decline in the third and fourth quarters, sending shares plummeting. That set a low bar for Tuesday’s Facebook results. Facebook shares slipped 1.5% in extended trading after closing at $146.22 in New York.

“Facebook grew revenue at a nice pace in the important US and Canada markets," EMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “Facebook also managed to eke out a small usage gain in the US and Canada. After the flatness we saw last quarter, that’s a good sign."

Maintaining growth in developed markets like the US is important because the new users that Facebook brings on in other parts of the world are usually in less-lucrative advertising markets.

The Facebook results suggest that advertisers continue to buy more Facebook ads. And they’ve embraced Instagram, the photo-based social network that recently passed 1 billion users.

“Facebook continues to be a dominant force in not just social media, but also advertising as a whole, and counters some of the recent pessimism," Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a note to investors before the results.

Future revenue growth depends on Facebook’s ability to shift marketers’ interest to new formats—specifically ads in messaging and marketing spots embedded in a popular way of sharing called “stories" especially on Instagram. In those formats, users post videos about their day that disappear within 24 hours. Users tap through them and see ads in between.

So far, the formats are less lucrative than advertising on the main social network’s news feed. The company also recently lost the founders of Instagram, who left after increased tension with chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, people familiar with the matter said at the time.

The Facebook results come a week before an even bigger test for the company: the US midterm elections. Facebook’s executives have touted their commitment to avoid the missteps of the 2016 election, when Russia ran a misinformation campaign that disrupted US politics. Facebook has been investing in safety and security, hiring thousands to monitor user complaints and investigate unusual activity, while improving its technology to take down fake accounts and pages.

In recent months, Facebook disclosed further misinformation campaigns by Russia, Iran, and domestic actors.

Facebook has been working to restore trust with users after a scandal in March over user data that an app developer shared with a political consultant—an incident that led to Zuckerberg testifying before Congress in April.

More recently, it faced its largest-ever security breach. About 14 million people had sensitive information, like their search history and location check-in history, accessed by hackers.

A couple weeks later, the company released a video chat hardware device, called the Portal, that sits in living rooms or kitchens. Critics panned the idea, saying the company wouldn’t be able to convince users to put a Facebook-made camera in their homes.

Still, some analysts expect Facebook’s reputation to recover.

“Facebook is an important innovator in the tech world and will ultimately emerge from this crisis a stronger company," Brian White, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co., said in a note to investors ahead of the results on Tuesday.

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