Analysts had expected Facebook, the social giant, to earn a much-smaller $1.91 per-share off smaller revenues of $19.82 billion. The company also reported an average of 1.82 billion daily active users in September, up 12% compared to the year-ago period. Monthly actives were 2.74 billion, also up 12%. Both results were ahead of expectations.
Notably Facebook's headcount rose sharply during the year, rising 32% compared to the year-ago period. That outstripped its 22% year-over-year revenue growth. The company's total expenses rose 28%, again faster than its revenues.
Shares of Facebook are effectively flat in after-hours trading, up around 0.4% at the time of writing.
The company did not share a specific outlook for Q4 2020 or 2021 in its report, instead noting that it anticipates "fourth quarter 2020 year-over-year ad revenue growth rate to be higher than [its] reported third quarter 2020 rate," along with stronger non-advertising revenues stemming from Oculus Quest 2 sales, the company's new VR helmet.
Facebook did say that 2021 will bring a "significant amount of uncertainty." A potential hurdle of Facebook will be the regulatory environment in Europe, and viability of transatlantic data transfers. Facebook says that its "closely monitoring the potential impact on our European operations as these developments' progress."
Analysts expect Facebook to generate revenues of $24.25 billion and per-share profit of $2.67 in the fourth quarter of 2020, and $100.0 billion in 2021 top line leading to $10.26 in per-share income.
What matters in all of this? That the core advertising market that seemed to bolster Snap's own results has helped fill Facebook's wings as well. Facebook noted in its earnings that it thinks that the "pandemic has contributed to an acceleration in the shift of commerce from offline to online," leading to it experiencing "increasing demand for advertising as a result of this acceleration." Twitter, meanwhile, saw ad revenue only marginally increase, about 8% from the year prior, as advertiser taste buds remain volatile.
That's a tailwind from a secular shift. For Facebook, it could mean a good year's growth.
It's worth noting, however, that Facebook lost users in the U.S. and Canada -- down to 196 million from 198 million last quarter -- a decline that it attributed to a slowing surge from the abnormal highs seen in the midst of the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. So tailwinds, but also a return to normal patterns. And it expects this flat or down trend to continue into Q3, noting that “in the fourth quarter of 2020, we expect this trend to continue and that the number of DAUs and MAUs in the US & Canada will be flat or slightly down compared to the third quarter of 2020.”