Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Facebook's first earnings report wasn't disappointing. But a big question about its mobile growth prospects is dogging the company.
Facebook reported earnings for the first time today as a public company and, as expected, it mostly met Wall Street's expectations, earning $0.12 per share. But that didn't matter much, as the stock still got crushed in after-hours trading, diving well below its $38/share IPO offering price. How could this be, on a day when the markets rallied on news that the European Central Bank will — wink, wink — not allow the euro to fail, according ECB President Mario Draghi?
I listened to Facebook's earnings call, which feature CEO mark Zuckerberg in additional to COO Sheryl Sandberg and CFO David Ebersman — he of the botched IPO — in speaking roles. The focus of the call was mobile, mobile, mobile. Facebook has almost a billion PC users and half a billion mobile users. And it's to this latter group that Wall Street is now looking for growth. Unfortunately, Facebook just isn't there yet on developing an ad platform for the mobile environment. And it may not get there for a while.
Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
The home page for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook today revealed details of its purchase of Instagram.
Facebook "reported" quarterly financials today, as part of the prelude to its IPO in May. Through a required filing with the SEC, we learned that it's costing a lot more to be Facebook, as profits dropped 12 percent, to $205 million from $233 million. We also learned how the Instagram deal is getting done. This is from the LATimes:
The regulatory filing also disclosed details of Facebook's agreement to buy Instagram. The company paid for the $1-billion deal with $300 million in cash and 23 million shares. Facebook placed a value of $30.89 apiece on its shares as of Jan. 31. Facebook said it would pay Instagram $200 million in cash if the government blocked the $1-billion deal.
So only 30 percent of the deal is in cash, which still isn't too bad for a company — Instagram — that didn't exist two years ago and has no revenues and no real business model (besides being sold to Facebook for $1 billion after it ate Facebook's lunch for a year in mobile photo uploading and sharing).
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 04: Apple's Senior Vice President of iOS Scott Forstall speaks about the new voice recognition app called Siri at the event introducing the new iPhone 4s at the company's headquarters October 4, 2011 in Cupertino, California. The announcement marks the first time new CEO Tim Cook introduced a new product since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs resigned in August. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Apple just flat-out killed it last quarter, largely on the strength of iPhone sales. Most analysts, technological and financial, now readily agree that Apple reinvented the smartphone business with the iPhone by putting a computer in your pocket. What's perhaps less apparent is that Apple also reinvented the business model for mobile communications. That's why this headline from CNET provokes a double-take: "iPhone Soaks Up 75 Percent of All Mobile Phone Profits."
What?!?! Three quarters of all profits available in the mobile space go to Cupertino? That's remarkable. Here's CNET:
Though it holds only around 9 percent of the global mobile phone market, Apple raked in 75 percent of all profits across the industry last quarter, according to Asymco analyst Horace Dediu.
That left rival Samsung with 16 percent of the profit pie, RIM with 3.7 percent, HTC with 3 percent, and Nokia rounding out the list of 1.8 percent. All together that pie represents around $15 billion in profits for the final quarter of 2011.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a news conference at Facebook headquarters on October 6, 2010 in Palo Alto, California.
Facebook filed for an IPO with the SEC late today. I've had a chance to review the S1 document, although I didn't really dig deeply into it. That can come later. The CliffNotes version is that there aren't any huge surprises here, as far as Facebook's financials go. There are over 800 million users. The business is all about advertising, the source of almost all of Facebook's revenue.
So what are the little surprises?
1. Facebook's future hinges on mobile. As plenty of folks have pointed out, pretty much everybody who is going to use Facebook already does — on a computer. This is where the money comes from: advertisers want to reach those people. On mobile devices, by contrast, Facebook doesn't do ads yet. There could be growth here. But mobile could also steal from Facebook's computer-bound business. From the S1: