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Facebook profits beat expectations


Facebook's popularity has continued to grow in Ireland

Facebook's popularity has continued to grow in Ireland

Facebook's popularity has continued to grow in Ireland

For the seventh quarter in a row, Facebook's results have beaten profit and revenue forecasts as the firm continues to win more mobile advertising revenue as users shift to using the site on smartphones.

The world's biggest online social network said advertising revenue jumped 53% to 3.59 billion dollars (£2.36 billion) for the fourth quarter - with mobile advertising revenue representing 69% of that total.

That percentage has grown steadily in each quarter of the year.

Facebook's massive user base also expanded. It had 1.39 billion monthly active users at the end of the year, up 13% from a year earlier.

Daily users totalled 890 million, up 18%. Mobile monthly active users jumped 26% to 1.19 billion.

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer, said: "The bigger Facebook gets, it cements its position as one of the most dominant players in digital media, and it has the size and reach to change the rules of digital advertising and convince others to play by them."

Facebook, which turns 11 years old in 2015, began offering mobile ads in 2012, the year its stock began publicly trading.

More recently, Facebook expanded into more lucrative video advertising, and last year it re-launched Atlas, a tool for marketers to better target people across devices, platforms and publishers and to measure how well the ads work.

Facebook had a "strong quarter capping off a really great year," chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview.

She called 2014 the year Facebook completed the shift to mobile, and said the company will continue to make investments to build its business this year.

When it comes to Facebook's ad business, the focus is on mobile. Ms Sandberg said that in the US, 25% of consumers' time spent on various media is spent on mobile - while only about 10% of advertising budgets goes to mobile.

She added: "What that says to me is that we have opportunity for growth."

The company is still a long way from catching up to rival Google in the digital advertising market. In 2014, Facebook had a nearly 8% share of the market compared with Google's 31% according to eMarketer.

That's an increase for Facebook and a slight decrease for Google from 2013.

After paying preferred dividends Facebook earned 696 million dollars (£458 million), or 25 cents per share, in the October to December quarter, up from 520 million dollars (£342 million), or 20 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings totalled 54 cents per share. Analysts, on average, were expecting adjusted earnings of 48 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Revenue grew to 3.85 billion dollars (£2.53 billion) from 2.59 billion dollars (£1.78 billion) a year earlier, also topping analysts' 3.78 billion dollar (£2.48 billion) forecast. Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia said the company has "made it clear" that it expects revenue growth rates to slow due to tough comparisons to year-ago results, but added that this "should not be a big concern, especially for long-term investors."

Facebook, which owns the popular photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp, has launched stand-alone mobile apps of its own, in a move that helps it take up more space on people's phones. Besides its Messenger app, though, these apps have seen limited success.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised that Facebook will continue investing in new areas that might not pay off for a long time. This includes its purchase of Oculus, a small company that makes virtual reality goggles, last year. The company's ambitious Internet.org project, meanwhile, aims to connect everyone on Earth to the Internet.

Mr Zuckerberg said recently that it's a misconception that Facebook does everything for business reasons.

"I can promise you that if what I cared about was making more money, I would take the engineers and the people who are working on Internet.org and spreading connectivity around the world and have them go work on our ads product," he told an audience recently in Bogota, Colombia.

PA Media