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Facebook shares to surge on earnings

Thursday, July 24 14:30:16

Shares of Facebook were set to open at a record high today after a surge in mobile advertising revenue helped the world's No. 1 social network trounce analysts' expectations for quarterly profit and revenue.

The company's shares were set to open around 9 percent higher after touching $78.13 in premarket trading.

Up to Wednesday's close, Facebook's stock had more than quadrupled since touching a low of $17.55 in September 2012.

At least 18 brokerages raised their price targets on the stock, by as much as $15 to a high of $100.

At $100, Facebook would be valued at more than $250 billion.

Facebook reported on Wednesday that its mobile advertising revenue grew 151 percent in the second quarter, accounting for about 62 percent overall ad revenue.

"Facebook has, so far, effectively addressed one of the most significant overhangs from its IPO days - the lack of mobile monetization," RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a note.

Facebook's initial public offering in May 2012 was widely considered to be a flop. The stock, priced at $38, fell for months after the debut as investors worried about the company's ability to make money from mobile advertising.

With people increasingly accessing the Internet from smartphones and tablets, companies such as Facebook, Google Inc and Twitter Inc have been looking for ways to generate more revenue from the smaller screens.

"We think 2Q represents further validation that Facebook can continue to drive mobile ad revenue growth through better ad targeting, relevancy and quality, and through continued growth in advertiser demand in its ad auction," JP Morgan analysts wrote in research report.

JP Morgan, which kept its "overweight" rating on the stock, raised its price target to $90 from $80.

Of the 43 analysts covering the stock, 37 have a "buy" or a higher rating on the stock and six a "hold". There are no "sell" ratings, according to StarMine data.

Facebook's quarterly revenue of $2.91 billion beat the average analyst estimate of $2.81 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"It was a very impressive quarter on top of what we believe were very high Street expectations," Barclays Equity Research analyst Paul Vogel wrote in a note.

While the average price per ad rose 123 percent year-over-year, total ad impressions fell 25 percent.

"The sharp rise in pricing was the result of an increase in proportion of newsfeed ads, which generally command higher pricing relative to other formats, and the decline in impressions was due to an increase in mobile usage," Macquarie Research analysts wrote.

Facebook, whose newsfeed ads inject paid marketing messages straight into a user's stream of news and content, said it now had 1.32 billion monthly users, of which about 63 percent access the service every day.

Facebook shares hit a record high of $72.59 in regular market trading on March 11. The stock closed at $71.29 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday. (Reuters)

For more visit www.businessworld.ie