Facebook Crushed Earnings Estimates. Its Stock Is Soaring.

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Shares of


surged to record territory in late trading Wednesday, after the company crushed Wall Street profit and revenue expectations.

Facebook (ticker: FB) said its first-quarter net income nearly doubled to $9.5 billion, or $3.30 a share, compared with a net profit of $4.9 billion, or $1.71 a year ago. Revenue rose 48% to $26.17 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of $2.60 a share on revenue of $23.71 billion.

“We had a strong quarter as we helped people stay connected and businesses grow,” CEO
Mark Zuckerberg
said. “We will continue to invest aggressively to deliver new and meaningful experiences for years to come, including in newer areas like augmented and virtual reality, commerce, and the creator economy.”

The company also grew its daily and monthly user counts faster than Wall Street had predicted. Around the world, 3.45 billion people now use at least one of Facebook’s apps every month. Monthly active users of the core Facebook product rose to 2.85 billion, from 2.60 billion a year ago.

Chief financial officer
David Wehner
said he expects second-quarter revenue growth to remain stable or “modestly” accelerate, relative to the first quarter, both of which were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

But Wehner said that he expects revenue growth in the second half of the year to slow sequentially. The CFO also said the company continues to expect challenges this year from regulatory issues, and changes to


‘s (AAPL) iOS update which launched Monday. He said the impact is factored into the company’s second-quarter forecast.

Investors have been wary about a change to Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. iPhone and iPad users will now have to opt in to ad tracking; previously that choice required an opt out setting buried in iOS menus.

The concern is that many people will decline to be tracked, which is expected to make Facebook’s advertising less valuable.

Apple and Facebook have sparred over the issue for months. Separately, Facebook has been targeted by federal and state antitrust legal actions.

Expenses, Wehner said, would tick up to $70 billion to $73 billion this year, an increase from Facebook’s prior estimate of $68 billion to $73 billion. Capital spending is now likely to be $19 billion to $21 billion, compared with Facebook’s prior estimate of $21 billion to $23 billion, he said.

The company said it closed the first quarter with $64.22 billion in cash and equivalents. Earlier this year the board authorized an additional $25 billion in share buybacks, which brought the total share buyback authorization to more than $30 billion.

Barron’s wrote positively about Facebook earlier this month, arguing the social media stock was being undervalued by investors. Shares are up 2.8% since the story, while the

S&P 500

index has gained 4.2%.

But Facebook stock could get a bump Thursday, with shares up 5.8% in after-hours trading Wednesday to $324.77—anything above $313.09 would mark a record close.

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