Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is scheduled to release its fourth quarter earnings report after closing bell tonight, and Wall Street is expecting earnings of 68 cents per share and $5.36 billion in revenue. It certainly wouldn’t be much of a surprise if there was upside to the social network’s results as multiple intra-quarter data points suggest a strong December quarter.
Facebook (FB) price target cut by SunTrust
Interestingly, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Robert Peck actually cut his price target going into tonight’s print. He trimmed his target from $125 to $120 per share based on a lower multiple of 17 times 2017 EBITDA.
Peck is looking for $5.4 billion in revenue and earnings of 70 cents per share, putting him close to Wall Street’s estimates. He said his checks suggest that click-through rates remained robust throughout the fourth quarter and that cost per click was low, which suggests improved engagement. Also mobile pricing and volumes looked better, and video ad spend was especially robust, while mobile spending was even more so.
Facebook’s ad growth at 20%
Raymond James analysts are looking for about a 20% sequential increase and a 43% year over year increase in advertising growth. They said all the ad agencies and Facebook marketing partners that talked to said ad spend was strong with Instagram being one of the main drivers as the social network rolled it out to global advertisers late in the third quarter, making the fourth quarter the first full quarter of Instagram advertising. Video and Dynamic Product Ads were also key drivers to ad revenue growth.
The Raymond James team pointed out that Nanigans saw only an 11% sequential growth rate in Facebook ad revenue but they think the disparity is due to shifting ad spend to Instagram. Kenshoo reported a 50% year over year increase in global paid social ad spend during the quarter, but that includes other platforms in addition to Facebook, which makes up the lion’s share of social ad spend. Also Instagram is included in Kenshoo’s estimate.
Area of focus in Facebook’s (FB) earnings results
The analysts expect one of the big questions tonight to be traction in Instagram advertising, and they think it might make up a percentage in the mid-single digits of Facebook’s ad revenue compared to the low single digits in the third quarter. They believe Instagram revenues will surpass $1 billion this year.
Another area of focus might be engagement metrics. Raymond James is estimating 17% year over year growth in daily active users. They expect analysts to also listen to expense guidance, which was a big topic in past earnings reports as Facebook said last year that it was greatly increasing its spending in various areas. They’re expecting a 38% increase, although they also say that they’re not including Oculus yet, as the social network is selling the virtual reality headset at cost. Monetization of WhatsApp and Messenger could also be hot topics of conversation.
Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) shares edged lower by 0.91% to $96.45 per share during regular trading hours going into tonight’s print.