It has turned into a brutal reality check for Facebook. The social network star — which has weathered storms over privacy and data protection — is now looking at cooler growth following a years-long breakneck pace.
Shares in Facebook plummeted 19 percent to close at $176.26 Thursday, wiping out some $100 billion — believed to be the worst single-day evaporation of market value for any company.
The plunge came one day after the firm missed revenue forecasts for the second quarter and warned that growth would be far weaker than previously estimated.
Chief financial officer David Wehner warned Wednesday in an earnings call with analysts that revenue growth had already “decelerated” in the second quarter and would drop “by high single-digit percentages” in coming quarters.
At one point during the call, Facebook shares were trading down as much as 24 per cent, an unprecedented drop for a large firm.
On the call, Jefferies & Co. analyst Brent Thill said that “many investors are having a hard time reconciling that deceleration… It just seems like the magnitude is beyond anything we’ve seen.”
Facebook said the slowdown will come in part from a new approach to privacy and security, but also appeared to acknowledge the limits of growth in advertising, which accounts for virtually all its revenue.
Brian Sheehan, a Syracuse University professor of communication and advertising, said the weak forecast “made investors nervous about more basic long-term issues” with the huge social network, notably its diminished appeal to younger users.
“With or without privacy issues, investors are scared that Facebook’s interactions, particularly with those under 25, are falling,” Sheehan said.
For the second quarter, profit was up 31 per cent at $5.1 billion; revenues rose 42 per cent to $13.2 billion, only slightly below most forecasts.
Facebook reported its user base was still growing but not as fast as some expected. Monthly active users rose 11 per cent to 2.23 billion — below most estimates of 2.25 billion.
Richard Windsor, a technology analyst
“Weaknesses in AI are forcing (Facebook) to keep hiring humans to do the jobs that the machines are incapable of,” he said.
Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research Group said the company appears to have hit a
Until Wednesday, Facebook shares had been at record highs as investors seemed to shrug off fears about data protection and probes into the hijacking of private information by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook has invested heavily in “safety, security and privacy” after being rocked by concerns of manipulation of the platform to spread misinformation, warning of an “impact” on profitability.
(Messenger and WhatsApp),” Mahaney said in a note to clients, adding that he sees “no material change in marketer views of the attractiveness” of Facebook platforms.