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Facebook Shares Jump on Revenue Beat

The company reported results that were better-than-feared and said it saw 'signs of stability' in the first three weeks of April.
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Facebook  (FB)  shares rose sharply higher Wednesday after the social-media icon beat revenue estimates for the first quarter although its earnings fell short.

TheStreet is live blogging Facebook's first-quarter earnings and call with analysts. Please join us!  

Facebook reported revenue of $17.74 billion versus analyst estimates of $17.33 billion, while EPS of $1.71 missed an estimate of $1.74 a share. 

At last check Facebook shares were trading up 9.7% at $213.06. They finished the regular Wednesday session up 6.2% at $194.19.

Facebook said it faced a period of "unprecedented uncertainty" and declined to provide financial guidance for the second quarter and full year.

"We expect our business performance will be impacted by issues beyond our control," Facebook said in a statement, "including the duration and efficacy of shelter-in-place orders, the effectiveness of economic stimuli around the world, and the fluctuations of currencies relative to the U.S. dollar."

In the last three weeks of the first quarter, demand for ads and Facebook's ad pricing fell significantly, the company said.

At the same time, "after the initial steep decrease in advertising revenue in March, we have seen signs of stability reflected in the first three weeks of April, where advertising revenue has been approximately flat compared to the same period a year ago, down from the 17% year-over-year growth in the first quarter of 2020," the company said.

"The April trends reflect weakness across all of our user geographies as most of our major countries have had some sort of shelter-in-place guidelines in effect," the company added.

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On April 16 Facebook shares were removed from Wedbush's Best Ideas List after analysts raised concerns about the social-media giant losing ad revenue in light of the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wedbush analysts maintained their outperform rating and $250 price target but said much of the near-term upside was priced into the stock. 

On the other hand, two days ago JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey affirmed an outperform rating on Facebook with a $215 price target. He sees Facebook benefiting from more activity on its site and from a growing and diversified advertising base.

Another closely watched number for Facebook is expenses.

Facebook expects total expenses in 2020 of $52 billion to $56 billion, down from the prior range of $54 billion to $59 billion. 

"While this reflects a moderate reduction in the planned growth rate of total expenses, our overall expense growth in the face of expected revenue weakness will have a negative impact on 2020 operating margins," it said.

Monthly active users at the end of the first quarter rose 10% to 2.6 billion.

Facebook has hardly been sitting idle. Last Friday it went head-to-head with the prominent videoconferencing company Zoom Video  (ZM)  by unveiling a free group videochat platform.

And last week the company invested $5.7 billion into Reliance Jio, the digital technology arm of India's largest closely held company, Reliance Industries.