Not that long ago, there were real questions about how long Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) would be able to keep its users. A study by Princeton University in early 2014 even predicted that the platform would lose 80% of its 1.2 billion monthly active users (MAUs) over the next three years. Those questions extended to FB stock as well.
Facebook shares fell by more than half within months of the company’s initial public offering back in 2012. Investors were concerned about advertising sales, particularly on mobile, and bears also pointed to the risk that Facebook would be the next MySpace – which was sold for just $35 million the year before FB went public.
Today, the fears surrounding Facebook seem almost silly in retrospect.
Rather than shrinking 80%, the user base has increased 70% — MAUs cleared 2 billion in the company’s second quarter. Plus, the stock trades at almost 10X its all-time low reached less than five years ago in September 2012.
Just because Facebook has fought off all concerns so far doesn’t mean it won’t be challenged at some point. The good news for FB stock is that it seems clear the company’s dominance will be unquestioned for at least the near future.
Pretenders to the Throne
Nothing better highlights just how dominant Facebook is than the performance of its social media rivals. Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) has seen its user growth stall out, and is struggling to monetize what users it does have, as second-quarter revenue declined 5% year-over-year.
The newest pretender to the throne is Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP). As I wrote back in May, it’s clear that Snap is not the next Facebook. But even that undersells how impressive Facebook’s growth is in comparison to that of its younger, smaller competitor. In the second quarter, Snap’s daily active users rose 21% year-over-year. Facebook’s total rose 17% over the same period.
Snap’s growth was modestly better, but, of course, Facebook’s user base is far, far larger. SNAP closed the second quarter with 173 million daily active users, while FB has added 190 million daily users just in the past year.
In other words, Facebook added more users in one year — after it already had over a billion daily users — than its largest rival has in the six years since it was founded. That’s simply incredible growth. Facebook’s efforts to mimic some of Snapchat’s features have not only prevented defections from its platforms, but apparently helped the company add more users as well.
Beyond Snap, there doesn’t appear to be another rival on the horizon. Tencent Holdings’ (OTCMKTS:TCEHY) WeChat and Weibo Corp (ADR) (NASDAQ:WB) both have large user bases in China — but little or no presence anywhere else. If anything, Facebook’s sheer size seems to make it almost unassailable at this point.
For better or for worse, Facebook is a major component of modern life.
Bottom Line on FB Stock
Remember, too, that Facebook isn’t just Facebook anymore. While the legacy platform drives nearly all of FB’s revenue, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and even Workplace all are extending the company’s dominance from a user standpoint.
But Facebook is beginning to monetize those assets — and that sets the stage for the company to continue its growth for years to come. Over time, Instagram and WhatsApp will add billions of dollars in revenue, while the legacy platform continues to gain share in online advertising in the United States and beyond. The company’s $35 billion in cash gives it flexibility if it wants to further expand its reach into other areas, like video or payments.
At the moment, Facebook is the undisputed king of social media. It doesn’t look there will be a real challenger to it for years — if not decades. It has growth drivers in its new businesses, and yet it isn’t particularly expensive, trading at 26X 2018 EPS estimates.
That combination makes FB stock one of the best buys in large-cap tech — or anywhere else.
Hilary Kramer is the editor of GameChangers, Breakout Stocks, High Octane Trader, Absolute Capital Return and Value Authority. She is an accomplished investment specialist and market strategist with more than 25 years of experience in portfolio management, equity research, trading, and risk management. She has extensive expertise in global financial management, asset allocation, investment banking and private equity ventures, and is regularly sought after to provide her analysis on Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business Network and other media.