While I think this will be a solid quarter, investors will be focused on several catalysts that are expected to keep user engagement high and revenue growing.
Facebook is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. On Friday, Cramer and Research Director Jack Mohr wrote that they sold some of the Action Alerts PLUS position in Facebook. But that's not a loss of confidence: "The move was nothing more than an attempt to take advantage of the opportunity to ring the register modestly on parabolic profits, rather than succumb to sheer greed," they wrote. "It is important to lock in tangible profits sometimes, even in your highest-conviction names," they continued.
On April 26, Facebook reported another strong quarter of revenue and earnings growth. Revenue was $5.38 billion, up 58%, ex-currency. Earnings per share were 77 cents, 14 cents ahead of the consensus estimate.
Facebook continues to be a cash machine. The company threw off $1.85 billion in free cash flow during the quarter, even after spending $1.13 billion on capital expenditures. Non-GAAP operating income was $2.97 billion.
Gross margins were 84.8% and adjusted operating margins of 55% were better than expected because expenses were less than expected. Expenses grew 41%, which was way below the company's target of 45% to 55%.
If Facebook can keep expense growth below its guidance for the remainder of the year, there could be some upside to earnings estimates.
The tax rate was 27% and the consensus forecast was 33%.
The lower expenses, higher margins and low tax rate drove the earnings-per-share beat.
Facebook continues to put up impressive user engagement numbers. Facebook had 1.654 billion monthly active users and 1.09 billion daily active users. The ratio between DAUs and MAUs was 66%, up from 65% last year. Mobile active users grew 24% to a staggering 989 million mobile daily users. Average revenue per user rose 33% to $3.32. On the conference call, management said increasing advertiser demand was driving ARPU. Users spent an average of 50 minutes a day across its sites.
For the second quarter, analysts predict revenue of $6.01 billion, up 48.8%, and earnings per share of 81 cents.
Several catalysts ahead should keep the stock moving higher. Facebook Live Video should help increase user engagement. On the call last quarter, management said Instagram was seeing an increase in advertising load. Facebook Messenger is another opportunity to reach advertisers. With almost a billion active mobile users, Facebook has a tremendous opportunity to monetize the Live and Messenger user base. And of course, next month, the Olympics should provide a boost in engagement.
Management indicated the company faces increasingly difficult comparisons over the next few quarters. For example, last year the second quarter grew 39%, the third quarter was up 40% and the fourth quarter grew 52%. Analysts are looking for the second quarter to grow 49% this year.
The Street is forecasting fiscal 2016 revenue of $25.6 billion and earnings of $3.75 per share. At the current quote of $121, the stock is trading at 32 times this year's estimates and 25 times next year's estimate of $4.90.
I think Facebook can continue to beat Wall Street estimates and the stock can trade over $145, as the company's momentum shows no signs of slowdown. Any loss of earnings momentum would cause negative comparisons with last year's results -- and the stock could make an unexpected about-face.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.