Excuse us if you’ve heard this song before: Facebook Inc. — under siege from the president and his predecessor, the Federal Trade Commission, a bestselling book and lawmakers — is expected to rack up record revenue and net income when it reports earnings.
So at least investors are happy as the social-networking juggernaut chugs along unabated, with a record stock price after Friday’s market close, billions of dollars in advertising, a market value topping $1 trillion and 3.3 billion users and counting heading into Wednesday’s second-quarter report. Analysts also still like Facebook
with Cowen analyst John Blackledge recently raising his forecast for second-quarter ad revenue to $28.8 billion, reflecting the ‘what-me-worry?’ Teflon sheen encasing the company and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg.
The general mood in digital advertising is that — considerable political and regulatory issues aside — Facebook and Google parent Alphabet Inc.
“remain dominant today and are regularly the preferred platforms for advertisers,” a Wedbush Securities note observed on July 19. The mood is likely even cheerier after spectacular revenue results from Twitter Inc.
and Snap Inc.
on Thursday underscored what financial analysts have been saying for weeks: A surge in digital advertising will greatly work to the advantage of Facebook and Alphabet.
“We have written much about the strength of the online ad markets over the past 9 months…but even we underestimated 2Q/3Q results,” Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak said of Twitter and Snap in a Friday note. “These trends and results are positive reads for Google/Facebook/Pinterest
ads into next week.”
The booming results, ironically, also have drawn the attention of lawmakers attempting to rein in the ever-expanding economic clout and market power of Big Tech. On July 16, President Joe Biden specifically called out Facebook and other social-media sites for their role in the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation before walking back his comments a few days later. Facebook countered with a blistering blog post Saturday. “At a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in America, the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social-media companies,” wrote Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity.
Not to be left out, former President Donald Trump is suing Facebook, Twitter and Google for “canceling” him after the Jan. 6 insurrection. Then there is the damning narrative of the new book “The Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination,” which chronicles the dysfunction of Facebook’s executive decision makers and penchant for blame deflection — not to mention ongoing investigation by the FTC and a raft of antitrust bills that, among other objectives, attempt to undo Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
In response, Zuckerberg appears to be thinking of pitching his company in a new way. In an interview with The Verge this week, Zuckerberg outlined an ambitious plan to transform the social-networking giant into a so-called metaverse company “where instead of just viewing content — you are in it,” he said. “But the metaverse isn’t just virtual reality. It’s going to be accessible across all of our different computing platforms — VR and AR, but also PC, and also mobile devices and game consoles.”
Expect to hear more about the “metaverse” plans when Zuckerberg and other Facebook execs hold a conference call Wednesday evening, as well as questions about all the forces aligning against Facebook. Just don’t expect that any of that will have an effect on the money that keeps flowing into the social-media giant.
What to expect
Earnings: Analysts on average expect Facebook to report earnings of $3.04 a share, up from $1.71 a share a year ago. Analysts had been forecasting $2.49 a share at the end of March.
Contributors to Estimize — a crowdsourcing platform that gathers estimates from Wall Street analysts as well as buy-side analysts, fund managers, company executives, academics and others — are projecting earnings of $3.04 a share on average.
Revenue: Analysts on average expect Facebook to report $27.85 billion in second-quarter revenue. Estimize contributors predict $27.84 billion on average.
Stock movement: Facebook shares declined after four of the past eight quarterly earnings reports, with a 7.3% gain after first-quarter results. Facebook’s stock is up 28% so far this year, while the S&P 500 index SPX has climbed 16%.
What analysts are saying
A herd of Facebook analysts, led by the aforementioned Wedbush Securities, expect (record) business as usual despite the anti-Facebook climate and changes to Apple Inc.’s
iOS 14.5 that inhibit Facebook and other company’s ability to track users and show them certain ads.
“Google Search, Facebook, Google Shopping, and Instagram were ranked most often as the highest [return on advertising spend] platforms,” Wedbush Securities analysts gleaned from a survey of advertisers on the impact of return on investment from Apple’s privacy efforts.
“Overall, our channel checks imply a strong and possibly noisy 2Q for Facebook,” MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni said in a July 12 note to clients that rates Facebook shares as buy with a price target of $380. “However, we believe 2H21 innovation pipeline for the core FB/IG products appears to be accelerating, with the Instagram app redo (with TikTok-style vertical videos, Reels front-and-center), more gaming content, smart ad recommendations and growing focus on creator economy.”