As a young billionaire who changed the world, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in a class of his own. Yet he is under enormous strain, and it’s patently obvious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Zuckerberg dressed well, and certainly not twice. Now, the disappointingly poor FB earnings results for the second quarter only adds to the misery.
Zuckerberg and company crashed back down to earth, and has had to suffer a chronic human ailment: when it rains, it pours. To be clear, the actual metrics weren’t terrible; the Street expected FB per-share earnings to hit $1.72. FB delivered $1.74 — two cents higher than expected. In the year-ago quarter, the company produced an EPS of $1.32 against a $1.13 consensus target.
The other key metric, revenue, wasn’t great, especially considering its almost-automatic outperformance in prior earnings reports. It wasn’t catastrophically bad, however, from an objective point-of-view. Against a consensus target of $13.36 billion, Facebook produced $13.23 billion. Mathematically, that’s within a 1% margin. In the year-ago quarter, the social-media firm brought home $9.32 billion.
What really hurt the mood during the FB earnings conference call was the guidance. Management downgraded their expectations for sales growth, especially in the second half of this year. Moreover, the leadership team noted that the decline could amount to high, single-digit percentages.
Fueling this sour outlook is user growth or lack thereof. Prior to the Q2 FB earnings report, covering analyst expected to see 1.49 billion daily active users (DAUs). Instead, they got 1.47 billion.
As with the other component misses, the discrepancy isn’t mathematically terrible. However, user growth has been a reliable catalyst for Facebook. It appears now that the political environment, as well as changing international privacy laws, are taking its toll.
Don’t Ignore Subtle Positives in the FB Earnings Report
You don’t have to look far to see the doom and gloom associated with the most recent FB earnings report. Headline after headline reported the steep, double-digit losses in Facebook stock during aftermarket trading. In terms of market capitalization, we’re talking about a $100 billion to $130 billion negative impact.
That’s the GDP of a small nation being wiped out away in the blink of an eye. But if you take a closer look, you might discover that the bad news is a bit overplayed.
For one thing, the guidance from the FB earnings report wasn’t favorable from a nearer-term perspective. But over the longer term, Facebook can’t just rely on what it has been doing. At some point, they’re going to have to change it up.
Rival Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) resurgence is a prime example. Dominance in social media, like anything, must be earned. Recall that pre-Facebook, everyone raved about MySpace. Now, it’s a running joke.
Facebook will have a rough year ahead (relative to prior outperformance) in part because of their commitment to Stories. Apparently, the Street views that as a negative because Stories is currently a lower-margin business. But Facebook has a vulnerability to Snap (NYSE:SNAP) in the youth demographic.
Attacking this market is a growth opportunity, so what’s the big issue? Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) utilized similar strategies, sacrificing earnings growth to gain critical market share. Facebook shouldn’t be penalized for taking these risks because let’s face it: it already owns the connected world. To gain more market share requires either attaining a greater pie of the young demo or connecting the unconnected.
Facebook tried the latter, but the former is a lot easier. In an increasingly competitive environment, going on autopilot simply isn’t the answer.
Facebook’s Moat Is Going on Discount
If early sentiment is anything to go by, the markets will pummel FB stock. The pain might occur for several days, perhaps weeks or months. But in the long run, this just means Facebook’s moat is going on an extended discount.
With the uproar over the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, it’s easy to forget that outside the teens and early twenties demo, Facebook conquers all. And because humans tend to age, all roads eventually lead to Zuckerberg’s platform.
The most recent FB earnings report actually proved my argument. North American DAU stats were flat year-over-year, and virtually in line with consensus expectations. That tells me that the aforementioned fiasco that led to the #DeleteFacebook campaign ultimately did nothing.
Facebook is simply too ingrained in our society, and I would argue, too useful for us to give up. Not even Hollywood’s self-righteousness and a trendy millennial’s exaggerated self-importance could dent Facebook engagement stats.
I concede that European privacy laws may have negatively impacted that region’s DAUs. Still, I don’t find this a reason to panic because no other social-media network besides Facebook offers its comprehensive utility. A big draw for FB is that it cuts across all demos and other social classifications; its rivals can’t compete in that department.
But, of course, that’s not the angle we’re going to hear. My practical idea? Don’t fight the tape. Let the markets beat up FB stock, and then pick some up on the cheap.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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