Facebook’s first quarter a big ‘like’ for investors

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Facebook’s first quarter a big ‘like’ for investors

Facebook’s first-quarter sales topped projections, a sign that Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is making headway in a drive to make more money from mobile advertising.

First-quarter sales rose 38 percent to $1.46 billion, Facebook said in a statement yesterday. That compares with the average estimate of $1.44 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Profit excluding certain items was 12 cents a share, compared with analysts’ prediction of 13 cents.

So far this year, Facebook has introduced new software for smartphones, added tools for marketers and revamped News Feed, the first thing members see when logging onto the network of more than 1 billion.

Investments in upgrades to attract more users on mobile devices and advertisers are beginning to pay off, according to Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“They’re monetizing it better and better and better,” said Pachter, who rates the shares outperform. “They’re making progress - and dramatic progress.”

During the first quarter, mobile made up about 30 percent of advertising revenue, expanding from 23 percent during the previous period. Pachter had predicted about 25 percent.

Facebook shares declined 1.2 percent to $27.43 at the close in New York, leaving them down 28 percent since the company’s initial public offering a year ago.

Net income attributable to shareholders rose 58 percent to $217 million, compared with $137 million a year earlier. Operating costs rose 60 percent to $1.09 billion, as Facebook added more staff and poured money into computers and software.

“We’re pleased with our progress in product development and with our financial results as well,” David Ebersman, Facebook’s chief financial officer, said in an interview. “Mobile has the opportunity to be huge for Facebook if we execute well and continue to attract mobile users and develop valuable mobile monetization products.”

Facebook has pushed ahead with new products to get users to spend more time using its service on mobile devices. Last month, the company introduced Home, software that integrates features more deeply into some smartphones using Google’s Android operating system. The company also made improvements to a tool used by businesses to reach consumers using mobile devices.

“We’re picking these big investments because I think these are important areas for us to focus on,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call.

Facebook is projected to grab 13 percent of U.S. mobile-ad dollars this year, up from 9.5 percent in 2012, according to EMarketer. The total market will reach $7.29 billion in 2013, up 77 percent from 2012, the research firm said.

The number of users on Facebook rose 23 percent to 1.11 billion from a year earlier, the company said in the statement.

Mobile users grew 54 percent to 751 million, making up 68 percent of the total.

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