The market awarded Facebook a 25 percent share price spike today, following a strong earnings report that showed off the company’s ability to retain mind share among youths, build its total global usership, and monetize mobile traffic better than nearly any other company. Period.
The firm pop in its shares has pushed Facebook’s valuation past the $80 billion mark, where it currently rests at $80.21 billion. Not a bad day’s work, but that number is somewhat shadowed by the fact that, as a company, Facebook has torched tens of billions of dollars of shareholder equity since it first went public.
We draw two conclusions from that fact: Given that Facebook is now a tremendously stronger company than it was a year ago, and yet it is valued under its former price, a pox on our own house for overpaying for the company’s shares; and, naturally, that Facebook is more than another strong quarter away from being simply flat.
Here’s TechCrunch’s Josh Constine and Kim-Mai Cutler the day before the fateful, and botched, IPO:
Facebook shares will start trading at $38 tomorrow, the company confirmed in a release, giving it a valuation of $104.12 billion. Facebook and its early shareholders will raise just over $16 billion in tomorrow’s much anticipated IPO.
At a $104 billion valuation, Facebook is worth more than any other tech IPO candidate at the time of its offering. It also perfectly matches what Facebook shares have been trading at in secondary markets over the last several months. Google was worth $23 billion at the time of its very unusual Dutch auction IPO back in 2004. As of tomorrow Facebook will be worth about half of what Google is worth now.
The implicit point in the second paragraph is that if Google managed to so greatly grow its valuation compared to its IPO price, to what heights might Facebook race? Despite general market furor, Facebook popped but a nibble to $42 a share on its first day, and then declined rapidly enough that its banking partners held the line at its initially offered price.
To illustrate just how off the market was concerning the pricing and sale of Facebook stock, here’s the same set of TechCrunch writers during its first day as a public company:
While the price is going to fluctuate a lot today, there’s a crowdsourced bet from Twitter users on FacebookIPOClosingPrice.com that the company will close at a $54 price and a $135.7 billion valuation.
Nope, Twitter users, that wasn’t the case. In fact, those shorting Facebook made out the best.
The gap between $104 billion and roughly $80 billion is $24 billion. But that’s not even the least-kind way we could describe Facebook’s total decline from former heights. Facebook opened on its first day at $42.05, meaning that it was worth more than $104 billion; those who bought in at that price would have enjoyed a far heavier decline in the value of their stock if they held onto it.
But, in effect, this is our fault. The Facebook IPO price, as noted in the first blocked quote above, matched secondary market interest. The market bore Facebook at a $38-per-share price; the IPO went off, hitches aside.
Christopher Hitchens once said that the ironies of history occur most pungently to those that don’t believe in them, and that applies greatly to us in the technology industry. We have undergone a number of periods in which valuations of technology companies have gotten far ahead of their earnings. Again and again we have bought into our own hype only to watch the money of the average Joe evaporate as founders and investors pocket cash at IPO prices. That’s fine. It’s simple market capitalism. But you’d think we would have learned a bit by now.
Facebook as a financial entity is much stronger than it was during the quarter it went public. Let’s do a little comparison for fun [Facebook Q2 2012 financial data versus Q2 2013 financial data]:
- Revenue, Q2 2012: $1.18 billion
- Revenue, Q2 2013: $1.81 billion
- Net income, Q2 2012: -$157 million
- Net income, Q2 2013: $333 million
Aside from higher expenses and a lower operating margin, it’s hard to find a metric by which Facebook is worse off than it was a year ago. And yet we the market public value the firm at $24 billion less than on its first day.
We were out of our skulls in 2012, and we are still paying for it. That said, Facebook is damn killing it recently, and is slowly growing into the valuation that its bankers and investors found palatable four quarters ago.
New question: Is Facebook overvalued at its current $80 billion price? The comments are yours.
Top Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass
Before Instagram Direct was unveiled, I had reservations about how private messaging would be integrated into the platform.
The pure, immediate joy of Instagram comes from its simplicity, both in terms of its design and the sharing it facilitates. You capture a photo or short video clip, then post it to a stream where others can view and comment on it. For all of the tweaks and updates that have rolled out since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, that core has always stayed the same.
The prospect of a traditional messaging experience, similar to mobile apps such as WhatsApp, LINE, or even Facebook’s own Messenger app, filled me with dread. The thought of sending quick messages back and forth, with the odd photo or video for good measure, felt counter-intuitive to Instagram’s DNA. A useful feature, perhaps, but one better served by an array of existing apps.
Thankfully, Instagram opted for a simpler implementation. You still have the option of publicly posting a photo or video, but it’s now joined by Direct, which lets you create a private thread with up to 15 people. These discussions aren’t like other messaging apps though, with an endless stream of text bubbles flanking the left and right-hand side of the display. Instead, the company has stuck to its roots by subtly repurposing the UI of any normal Instagram post.
That means placing the original photo or video on a pedestal. So when you first open a private thread in your inbox, you’ll always see the shared moment at the top of the page. Furthermore, no-one else can post a photo or video without starting a new, private thread inside Instagram.
That might seem a little basic, annoying or short-sighted, but the impact on the UX is profound. Instagram is giving users another place to discuss their photos and videos, instead of facilitating broader conversations usually reserved for other mobile messaging apps. That helps to protect the core premise of Instagram, which has always been about sharing and commenting on interesting moments. Admittedly, you can write about anything in an Instagram Direct thread, but because subsequent comments are always tied to a specific photo or video, the feature subtly discourages you from going too far off topic.
Instagram isn’t Snapchat
The experience is tailored to Instagram and far-removed from that found on Snapchat, the red-hot messaging app that lets users send and view content for a limited period of time. Now, Instagram could have offered a timer for private messages, but in my opinion that would have derailed its original intentions.
Instagram Direct is about more than just viewing a photo or video privately – it’s about the conversations that occur afterwards. I have relatives based halfway around the world, and if they choose to share an important moment with me using Instagram Direct, it’s important that I can see it for more than 10 seconds. Otherwise, if I submit a comment and carry on with my day, I won’t be able to access the photo or video when they reply later on.
In that scenario, any meaningful discussion would be impossible. That’s not to say Instagram couldn’t be successful as a Snapchat clone – I’m sure young people would happily use it for sexting – but such a feature would fly against what makes Instagram such a delightful app.
Instagram is popular because it creates conversations. It’s a simple way not only to share photos and videos, but also to comment and leave feedback on those posted by other people. (Even if that just means leaving a couple of likes on someone’s profile page). The UI has been designed to make that feedback loop as quick and simple as possible – Instagram Direct is simply an extension of that; sharing moments and then talking about them. Only this time, it’s privately with a smaller group of people.
Facebook stunned yesterday with its report that mobile advertising represented 41 percent of its total ad revenue in the second quarter of 2013. In the first quarter of 2013, it totaled a then-hailed 30 percent, bumping that key ratio by more than a third in just a fourth of a year. On a dollar basis, Facebook’s mobile advertising grew more than four times as much as its desktop-sourced advertising incomes in the most recent quarter.
However, looking backwards, last quarter’s mobile ad growth is less astounding when placed into context. From the third to fourth quarter of 2012, Facebook juiced its ad revenue as a percentage of total ad income by 9 percent. From the last quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013, growth was 7 percent. Taking into account the 11 percent gain reported yesterday, Facebook has averaged 9 percent growth in its mobile ad revenue as a component of its larger ad top line for the past few quarters.
This allows us the ability to make basic predictions. Facebook yesterday noted on its earnings call that mobile advertising revenues will eventually outstrip desktop ad income. But when? Well, we can predict. If mobile advertising revenues continue at their average rate of the past few quarters, Facebook should earn precisely as much from desktop and mobile advertising platforms in the current quarter.
The math is simple: Facebook ended the most recent quarter with a 41/59 split between mobile and desktop ad income. If mobile revenues are growing by 9 percent quarterly – again, on average – 41 and 9 make 50, leaving the remaining 50 percent for desktop ad revenues.
Adding another 9 percent to Facebook’s mobile ad revenue as a percentage of its total ad income, and we could wrap the year where the second quarter finished, but in reverse, with mobile revenues comprising 59 percent of total ad income, and desktop just 41 percent.
This feels, prima facie, optimistic. Are we being too generous?
There is always a risk in any form of prediction, as future market dynamics are outside of our vision, and will always remain so. That said, we can take mild refuge in the fact that our average rate of mobile ad growth, again as a percentage of Facebook’s total advertising top line, is under the most recent quarter’s rise; this means that we are anticipating Facebook to under-perform its most recent quarter moving forward.
This gives us some breathing room in our predictions. Here’s the chart:
If mobile revenue is so strong, where does that leave desktop advertising incomes? Well, as it turns out, Facebook’s desktop advertising business is all but not growing. We can deduce this by subtracting the percentage of Facebook’s mobile ad revenue from its total advertising income, leaving us with its desktop-sourced figure. Let’s have some fun:
- Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.25 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Of that, 30 percent came from mobile. That means 70 percent came from desktop sources. Seventy percent of $1.25 billion is $875 million.
- Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.60 billion in the second quarter of 2013. Of that, 41 percent came from mobile. That means 59 percent came from desktop sources. Fifty-nine of $1.60 billion is $944 million.
- $944 million – $875 million = $69 million. That, assuming that Facebook has its numbers in place, is the delta between Q1 and Q2 for Facebook’s desktop advertising business.
That’s not much. Not only is Facebook sourcing a growing percentage of its revenue from mobile platforms, but its revenue growth is increasingly coming from a smartphone near you.
Let’s get to the bottom of the final number: In dollar figures, how much did Facebook’s mobile ad revenue grow from the first to second quarter? I’m glad you asked. Let’s find out:
- Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.25 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Of that, 30 percent came from mobile. Thirty percent of $1.25 billion is $375 million.
- Facebook’s total advertising revenue was $1.60 billion in the second quarter of 2013. Of that, 41 percent came from mobile. Forty-one percent of $1.60 billion is $656 million.
- $656 million – $375 million = $282 million.
So, Facebook’s mobile revenue grew by a quarter billion dollars in the second quarter. Not bad, given that as a percentage gain it works out to around 75 percent. And, perhaps more importantly, the $282 million figure is more than four times our previous $69 million sum. Therefore, mobile ad revenues on a dollar basis grew four times as fast as desktop advertising incomes in the most recent quarter.
Top Image Credit: Randy Lemoine