Facebook shares fell by more than 20 per cent after the company’s user growth and revenue missed investor expectations.
Shares in the company initially fell as much as 12 per cent in after-hours trading, before losses peaked at 24 per cent after the social network warned investors that growth would continue to decelerate.
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Facebook has faced scrutiny since March when the Observer published Carole Cadwalladr’s scoop on the 50m Facebook users affected by alleged data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica.
It later emerged that as many as 87 users around the world had their personal details improperly shared.
In the resulting scandal, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg faced Congress and apologised for the “mistake”.
Facebook’s revenue estimates have fallen short, reaching $13.3bn, which Zuckerberg attributed to the company’s investment in improved safety and security controls and continued tackling of fake news and privacy issues.
“As I’ve said on past calls, we’re investing so much in security that it will significantly impact our profitability,” he said in an earnings call.
“We’re starting to see that this quarter.”
Facebook’s monthly active user count was 2.23bn, slightly behind the 2.25bn forecast by analysts.
Although Facebook’s monthly active users were up 11 per cent year-on-year, growth had fallen flat in the US and Europe, its key advertising markets. Europe’s fall was partly down to the roll-out of GDPR, the company told investors.
Zuckerberg’s own net worth also took a hit as a result of the share drop, losing $16.8bn in a day and knocking about a fifth off his net worth.
Facebook warned investors that it expected revenue gains to slow down because of users utilising options to limit advertising on the social network.
“Our total revenue growth rate decelerated approximately seven percentage points in Q2 compared to Q1,” warned chief financial officer David Wehner.
“Our total revenue growth rates will continue to decelerate in the second half of 2018, and we expect our revenue growth rates to decline by high single-digit percentages from prior quarters sequentially in both Q3 and Q4.”
Some analysts have also put the fall down to social media reaching its peak.
“Teens are abandoning – or just not joining the site – as ‘oldies’ migrate there,” said Richard Holway, chairman at UK tech analyst house TechMarketView.
“Teens have been moving to Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. But now it looks as if overall usage is stalling.
“Indeed daily and monthly users in Europe actually fell for the first time ever in Q2. GDPR undoubtedly played a part here.”
One area Facebook had reason to celebrate was in its other platforms, especially Instagram, which reached a milestone of one billion active users this quarter.
“We believe Instagram has been able to use Facebook’s infrastructure to grow more than twice as quickly as it would have on its own,” Zuckerberg said.
“I’m really excited about video too, and this quarter we launched IGTV.
“People are watching less TV but more video, but most video is not yet optimised for mobile. IGTV will help solve that problem.”
Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire