Facebook Earnings: Solid Quarter, Though a Little Cost Control Would Be Nice

I joined CNBC’s Sri Jegarajah last night on Capital Connection to chat about Facebook’s (FB) first-quarter earnings.

If you cannot view the embedded video, please follow this link.

Overall, a very solid quarter. Revenues were up 42% and 49% after adjusting for currency moves. Perhaps most impressive, given that roughly half the world’s internet-enabled population is already on Facebook, is that the company is still growing its monthly active user base at a 13% annual clip. And average revenue per user in North America jumped by 42% from $5.85 to $8.32. That’s impressive performance no matter how you slice it.

Facebook also buried any lingering doubts about mobile profitability. Mobile ad revenue accounted for 73% of the total.

Unfortunately, Wall Street was a lot more interested in Facebook’s ballooning expenses. Total expenses were up 83%, and research and development expenses more than doubled. Zuckerberg defends the spending spree as investment in Facebook’s growth, but from a distance it looks like very sloppy cost control.

Separately, Google (GOOGL) is desperately trying to follow Facebook’s lead in mobile.  Dubbed “Mobilegeddon,”  Google recently made a major change to its algorithm that effectively rewards sites that are optimized for mobile and punishes sites that are not.

Now, there are two ways to view this. It could be that Google is looking out for its users. By improving the search rankings of mobile-friendly sites, they are saving you the frustration of waiting for non-optimized pages to load on your iPhone.

But I suspect Google also has other motives. Google makes less money on mobile ads. But by improving the mobile browsing experience by rewarding mobile-friendly sites, Google makes mobile ads more attractive for would-be advertisers. That should ultimately mean more mobile ad revenue for Google down the line.

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management and the author of the Sizemore Insights blog. As of this writing, he had no position in any stock mentioned.

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