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Facebook shares in free fall as weak outlook stuns market

26 July 2018

The Facebook, chairman and chief executive officer is set to see his wealth slide to sixth place from third on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index after the company's shares lost of 20 percent their value in after-hours trading today, as the stock plunged following disappointing results. The news sent Facebook shares crashing some 20 percent, which suggests reality may be catching up to the social networking giant - and the flap over fake news and related scandals may be starting to take a toll.

"Our community and business continue to grow quickly", Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.

Facebook generated revenue of $13.23 billion during the quarter ending June 30, compared to $9.32 billion during the same quarter previous year.

The company reported $US5.1 billion in profit, or $US1.74 per share, compared with the average estimates of $US5.1 billion and $US1.72 per share among research gathered by Thomson Reuters.

Total revenue rose 41.9 percent to $13.23 billion.

Facebook generated $13.2 billion in revenue, shy of Wall Street's expected $13.4 billion.

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But analysts attributed the user growth shortfall largely to European privacy rules that went into effect in May, not to the furor over the political consulting firm with ties to President Donald Trump, which improperly accessed the data of tens millions of Facebook users. Fourteen analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $13.43 billion.

Its gloomy forecast for revenue growth surprised investors, though, and prompted many questions from financial analysts on a conference call with company executives on Wednesday. That same number fell in Europe, where the company has had to comply with a strict new privacy law, known as GDPR.

In the United Kingdom, especially, Facebook drew the ire of lawmakers, who hit the social network with a $650,000 fine, the maximum amount allowable for mishandling user data.

Daily and monthly active users in Europe fell for the first time, to 279 million from 282 million and to 376 million from 377 million, respectively. Instagram now has more than 1 billion users, and analysts expect it to be a model for how Facebook molds its other big app purchase, WhatsApp, into a lucrative business. There are now 2.5 billion people who used at least one of Facebook's apps in June, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook.

Facebook has said it will increase spending to make investments in video content, and on new bets like artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Wednesday's closing price amounts to a 31 percent increase in the past year; earlier in the day, shares hit a record high. The company is also rapidly expanding its real estate around the world to accommodate a hiring spree, which includes thousands of new workers to help combat foreign election manipulation on the site.

The second-quarter report sparked initial selling after it showed revenue and user growth came up short of expectations. He said the challenges included regaining public trust as well as increasing the number of people joining Facebook and the time they spent on the platform.

Facebook shares in free fall as weak outlook stuns market