Facebook's sales rose by nearly 50% in the first quarter of the year, in its first results since the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. The company said that revenues rose to $11.9 billion, compared to $8 billion the same time last year.
Will Heffernan, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald, said he was not surprised by Facebook's soaring profits in the face of recent challenges for the social network. "We didn't expect it to have too much of an impact on earnings per share for this quarter. Total revenue was up 49% year on year, a significant beat on street estimates. It was all very positive," he said.
Mr Heffernan believes investors were reassured by Facebook's response to the user data privacy story, which was a public relations crisis for the company. "Initially, the response was somewhat lacking post the immediate media stories about the data issues," he said. "The share price fell about 14% so that's indicative of the investor concerns at the time. There was little or no comment from management and particularly Mark Zuckerberg for about a week and a half after the story broke.
"Since then, their performance has substantially improved. Mark Zuckerberg testified in Washington before Congress. He has been very vocal in what they are changing on the platform, and how those changes won't affect their ability to engage in targeted advertising which is the core function of the Facebook platform," he added.
The average number of active daily users on Facebook during March had risen to 1.45 billion, a 13% increase year on year in spite of an online campaign encouraging people to delete their Facebook page. "Research proved to us that it didn't gain any traction," Mr Heffernan said. "Ultimately, Facebook is at a point in its growth cycle where monthly average users and daily average users in North America will level out over the next three quarters or so. It's at a scale in North America whereby its difficult to add the kind of consistent growth that we've seen in the past." To compensate for that Facebook is adding equivalent growth on their other platforms, like Instragram and Whatsapp, both of which have yet to be monitised, the analyst added.
The European Unions' General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25. Will regulation hit Facebook's bottom line in future? "It is difficult to map out," he said. "Specifically with GDPR, they said that the effects should be relatively minor. There might be some small impact on advertisers ability to target consumers. From listening to the call, management were quite optimistic. They reiterated that targeted ads actually ensure that users have a better experience so it's in the interest of regulators to allow the targeting of ads, as long as it's done in a way that respects privacy," he added.
MORNING BRIEFS - The share of British-based workers planning to emigrate to the EU has returned to the highs seen in the days after the Brexit referendum. Data released by job site Indeed reveals that the share of UK jobseekers looking for work in the European Union has risen to over 15% above pre-referendum levels.
Ireland is the most popular destination, attracting more than a fifth of searches.
*** Samsung Electronics posted record profits for a fourth quarter in a row, thanks to strong demand for its memory chips and new Galaxy S9 smartphone. The technology giant's net profits between January to March were up 52% from a year earlier.
*** PayPal reported a 33% rise in first-quarter profit as more customers used the payment processor for online transactions. The company's net income rose to $511m from $384m a year earlier. The volume of payments on PayPal rose 31% to over $132 billion.
*** EBay last night reported a 60.7% drop in first-quarter profit as it spent more on its ecommerce platforms to attract more customers.