"2015 was the year Instagram rev[enue] got off the ground & 2016 should be the year of Oculus & Messenger," Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a note to clients.
In the third quarter, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company earned an adjusted 57 cents a share on $4.5 billion in revenue in the third quarter, including $4.3 billion revenue from advertising. Mobile has become the primary driver for Facebook's advertising business -- 78% of its advertising revenue comes from mobile.
About 1.55 billion people used Facebook every month, as of at the end of the third quarter, including 1.39 billion using it on mobile devices. More than 1 billion people used the service every day, including 894 million who used it daily on a mobile device, an increase of 27% year over year.
On the company's third-quarter earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said there were more than 8 billion video views every day from 500 million users -- up from just 4 billion per day in April.
Time spent on social networks and apps such as Instagram and Messenger is increasing, up roughly 50% year over year, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said in a note to clients, citing the Yahoo! Developer Network as a source.
These are positive trends for Facebook, which has three of the top five free apps on the Apple App Store, including the aforementioned Messenger, as well as Instagram and Facebook. WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in cash and stock in 2014, is ranked 20th.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect the company to earn an adjusted 68 cents a share on $5.37 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter.
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Here's what five of the top Wall Street analysts had to say about Facebook's earnings:
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali (Buy, $130 price target)
"We expect FB to report strong results on Wed., 1/27, showing that user growth and engagement on the platform continued unabated. Revenue growth and EBITDA margin at 41% Y/Y and 65%, should be among the highest within the Internet group, by our estimate. Intra-quarter checks indicate strong demand for social inventory and a growing popularity of Instagram among marketers. While management does not formally guide, we think it is likely to comment on investment and Opex levels, the growth of which is likely to again exceed that of revenue in 2016.
"FB remains a top pick for us, given its position as the largest/most engaging mass-reach Internet platform for advertisers, unmatched targeting potential, and very potent monetization formats. While Mobile has been the main driver of growth to date, in our view, video should start moving the needle more meaningfully in 2016, while Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus provide upside potential longer-term."
Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia (Buy, $150 price target)
"Facebook is our top pick in the Internet space for 2016. Instagram, which we estimate is currently growing revenue at an annual rate of more than 100%, should be an important catalyst to the story and a key source of upside, going forward. We expect WhatsApp to cross 1 billion users in the very near future and believe this to be a headline positive. Lastly, we see potential for FB to get its foot in the door in China this year, which, if it happens, could be the biggest catalyst for the stock in sometime. Another near-term catalyst will be Oculus Rift (VR headset), which will ship in late March. Facebook's new Facebook Sports Stadium feature seems intriguing as an engagement tool and will directly compete with Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report ."
JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey (Market Outperform, $130 price target)
"We expect Facebook to report 4Q results that are in line with or above consensus expectations given continued strong advertising demand in 4Q, a full quarter's monetization contribution from Instagram, the ramping of newer ad products like Dynamic Product Ads, Carousel, and video coupled with healthy engagement trends where we believe DAUs are now consistently above one billion.
"For 4Q15, we will be watching for: 1) advertising revenue growth -- we project 55% Y/Y ex-FX growth given a healthy online advertising environment in 4Q, Instagram monetization, and new ad products like DPAs, Carousel ads, and video; 2) Instagram advertiser demand and ad loads -- 4Q marks the first full quarter of Instagram monetization and we believe ad loads are now consistently at or above 5%; 3) engagement trends -- we expect consistent 1B+ DAUs; 4) an update on Oculus and virtual reality -- we believe Oculus could sell ~500K- 1M Rifts this year; and 5) 2016 PF operating expense growth guidance -- we currently project 43% Y/Y growth and would not be surprised if Facebook guides to 45-65% growth as the company continues to build out its core experience, converts Messenger and WhatsApp into platforms, and launches virtual reality.
"Our $130 price target is based on ~18x our 2017E EV/EBITDA, whereby our EV is $365B and EBITDA is $20.3B. Given FB's three-year revenue and EBITDA CAGRs of 40% and 35%, respectively, we believe our target multiple is appropriate. For 2016, we project revenue of $25.0B (+41.4% Y/ Y), EBITDA of ~$15.0B (+36.7% Y/Y, 59.8% margin), and PF EPS of $2.99."
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter (Outperform, $115 price target)
"We expect above consensus Q4 revenue driven by mobile and e-commerce trends over the holiday period. Our estimates are for revenue of $5.37 billion and EPS of $0.68, versus consensus of $5.36 billion and $0.68. Facebook does not provide detailed top- or bottom-line guidance for individual quarters or the year.
"Our expectation for mobile ad ARPU growth of 16% q-o-q may be conservative due to a few factors. According to the Yahoo! Developer Network, the number of minutes per day spent by U.S. consumers in messaging and social apps increased by roughly 50% y-o-y in Q2:15, a trend that we believe continued through year-end. Q4 was also the first full quarter of auto-play video, carousel ads, dynamic product ads, and click-to-play video ads in the Facebook Audience Network, likely boosting eCPMs. We expect the increasing popularity of video ads to have a similar effect.
"Finally, we believe Facebook should be a beneficiary of the well-publicized e-commerce strength over the holidays, with Facebook ads being among the most convenient and popular portals for buying. It is also worth noting that Instagram introduced ads to more marketers and in more countries at the end of Q3."
Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser (Buy, $134 price target)
"For 4Q15 we are forecasting +40% company-wide revenue growth and +44% advertising growth. These figures represent modest decelerations vs. 3Q15 levels but remain stellar by any other global standard given the revenue base against which this growth is occurring. More impressively, 2016 looks set to be another strong year on the top line and even better on the bottom line as 2015's investment year cycles around to see lower expenses as a percentage of revenues."