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Facebook's fourth-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations

Facebook's fourth-quarter earnings beat Wall Street expectations
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks in April at the F8 Facebook Developer Conference in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Facebook Inc. on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $3.56 billion.

On a per-share basis, the Menlo Park, Calif., social media giant said it had net income of $1.21. Adjusted for one-time gains and costs, earnings were $1.41 a share.

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The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.34 a share.

Facebook posted revenue of $8.81 billion in the period, which also beat Wall Street forecasts. Eleven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $8.47 billion.

Analysts said Wednesday morning they expected the company, led by Mark Zuckerberg, to report growth in its user base and ad sales.

Despite some investor concerns that Facebook wasn’t attracting younger users as much as rival social media apps such as Snapchat, analyst surveys show that the company continues to have good market share across a wide range of ages.

"We think the market's big enough right now for a couple leading social players," Aaron Kessler, managing director at Raymond James, said Wednesday morning. "We don't think competition impacted Facebook much."

Facebook's ad numbers probably will receive a boost from election-related advertising, he said. The company's advertising results also will be helped by Instagram, which, according to Kessler's estimate, now represents about 10% of Facebook's total ad dollars and drives "incremental revenues."

In a note to clients, he said he would look for any additional updates on the monetization of messaging app WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for $21.8 billion, as well as its own Messenger app.

"Clearly they've been doing everything right, in terms of user growth and revenue growth," Michael Pachter, research analyst at Wedbush Securities, said before Facebook posted its results.

During the last quarter, Facebook rolled out new features including Marketplace, a challenger to EBay and Craigslist through which users can arrange to buy and sell items among themselves. The company also debuted an ad-free, paid platform called Workplace, which functions as a communications tool for businesses and other organizations.

In November, Facebook said it found errors in how it calculated metrics for Pages — profiles that are geared toward businesses and celebrities. At the time, the company said the problem would be fixed in the coming weeks.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

Twitter: @smasunaga

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UPDATES:

1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with Facebook's earnings results.

This article was originally published at 10:05 a.m.

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