Facebook Inc (FB): Analysts Still Like It


In spite of the run-up in Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares over the last six months, analysts from many firms continue to like the company, citing better monetization efforts. Topeka Capital and Cantor Fitzgerald both continue to have Buy ratings on the social network.

Facebook Inc (FB): Analysts Still Like It

Facebook increases ad loads

Analysts Youssef Squali, Naved Khan and Kip Paulson of Cantor Fitzgerald believe Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has ramped up the ad load and number of embedded video ads within its News Feed. Their checks suggest ad load rose approximately 10% during the current quarter when compared to the third quarter, when ad load increased about 5%. They see this as being a positive in conjunction with the holiday shopping season, particularly because it could provide a boost to the social network’s December quarter results.

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These findings actually go against what Facebook management said when they released third quarter results. However, the Cantor Fitzgerald team believes management’s comments about not increasing ad load rates materially was about year-over-year trends rather than sequential trends.

They noted “a similar phenomenon last year,” saying that it caused mobile revenues to double between the third and fourth quarter of last year. They are estimating $1.165 billion in mobile ad revenue for the December quarter, a 24% increase quarter-over-quarter and a 58.5% increase year-over-year. They believe mobile ad revenue will make up 55% of the social network’s overall revenue.

More video ads on Facebook

The analysts also reported that they’re seeing more video ads, which means advertisers are becoming more interested in investing in these ads. They said an increased mix of video ads should drive cost per impression “materially higher over time.”

In addition to more video ads, they noted more “large marketers” on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s network. Specifically, they named Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) and other major brand names. They also noted more local suggested posts and “new lateral scrolling News Feed ads.”

They have a $63 per share price target on Facebook.

Facebook catalysts for 2014

Topeka Capital analyst Victor Anthony also likes Facebook, noting that the last of his expected 2013 catalysts for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has happened. That was the inclusion of the social network in the S&P 500. As a result, he’s looking forward to upcoming catalysts in 2014. All three of them deal with expanded monetization.

The three catalysts Anthony lists are the “launch of auto-play video ads, full Instagram monetization and efforts in Social TV.” He believes all three of these will increase the share of ad dollars Facebook is able to attract from major brand advertisers which currently spend heavily on television ads. He sees Graph Search monetization as being more long-term, possibly not until 2015 or 2016, as the social network “evolves into a content discovery platform.” The analyst has increased his 12-month price target for Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) from $63 to $67 a share.

Concerns about auto-play video ads

Unlike Anthony, the Cantor Fitzgerald team is actually worried about the introduction of auto-play video ads. They believe this type of advertising could cause some amount of backlash among Facebook users. Because these ads start playing automatically without the consent of the users, even when they are on a cellular connection, they could be seen in a negative light.

The analysts say these video ads could be viewed as wasting the limited data plans some users still have and / or slowing down load times for the News Feed.

Shares of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) rose nearly 2% in premarket trading this morning.

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