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Facebook Stock in Freefall Following Q2 Revenue, User Growth Miss, Lower Forecast

Facebook executives have long warned investors that the days of double-digit growth wouldn’t last forever. Investors have just as long shrugged off those warnings, driving the company’s stock up to record highs. On Wednesday, those same investors suddenly woke up to the realization that the good times truly won’t last forever.

A miss on user and revenue growth sent Facebook’s stock down around 9% in after-hours-trading immediately following the company’s release of its Q2 2018 earnings report. Then, during the company’s earnings call, Facebook CFO David Wehner told investors that the company’s revenue growth would decline significantly over the coming quarters, and that Facebook’s operating margin would sink from currently 44% to the mid-30% range.

Those stark warnings sent Facebook’s stock off a cliff, with share prices declining 24% in after-hours trading.

On paper, Wednesday’s revenue miss wasn’t actually all that dramatic: Facebook generated revenue of $13.23 billion during the quarter ending June 30, compared to $9.32 billion during the same quarter last year. The company’s net income for the quarter was $5.1 billion, compared to $3.89 billion in Q2 of 2017. Diluted earnings per share came in at $1.74, compared to $1.32 the year before.

Analysts had expected $13.34 billion in revenue, and earnings of $1.71 per share.

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But the market wasn’t just reacting to Facebook generating less revenue than expected. The company’s growth numbers also slowed down notably: Daily active users only increased 11% year-over-year, to the tune of 1.47 billion on average during the month of June. A year ago, that growth rate was still at 17%.

What’s more, daily active users have effectively been flat in the U.S. sequentially, and even declined in Europe when compared to Q1 — the first time the company has seen such a decline in recent quarters.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had warned in the past that the company may see some impact on its revenue as it aims to curtail abuse on the platform. “We started to see that this quarter,” Zuckerberg said during Wednesday’s earnings call, while promising to keep investing in fighting fake news, especially around elections.

“We run this company for the long-term, not for the next quarter,” he added.

Wehner blamed Europe’s new privacy laws for the decline in daily active users in the region, but Facebook CFO Sheryl Sandberg said that this hasn’t affected the company’s bottom line thus far. “GDPR has not had a significant revenue impact,” she said.

Other factors that impacted the company’s revenue were global currency fluctuations, Wehner said.

Wehner also mentioned another aspect of the decline that likely contributed to investors’ anxiety: Stories, a format that Facebook has been aggressively embracing across all of its apps, just isn’t monetizing yet as well as Facebook’s traditional newsfeed-based advertising business.

Asked by an analyst if Stories would ever become as profitable as the company’s other ad formats, Sandberg remained cautious: “Will this monetize at the same rate as newsfeed? We honestly don’t know.”

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