Facebook +5% as revenue beats in Q1 marked by legal expense

Facebook's first quarter earnings for 2019 are in and they come with news of a big FTC fine

Facebook's first quarter earnings for 2019 are in and they come with news of a big FTC

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Just like the social network's users, it seems its shareholders are a forgiving lot and the company's share price rose 8.3pc to $197.84 after the market closed. Meanwhile, Facebook has hired one of the reported architects of the US PATRIOT Act - widely considered to have crippled Americans' privacy rights - as its new general counsel. "What they care most about is its vast user base and its targeting capabilities". Its profit dropped by more than half, to $2.43 billion in the first quarter, as the one-time reserve wiped out most of its income. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecasted $14.98 billion.

Facebook and the FTC have reportedly been negotiating over the settlement, which will dwarf the prior largest penalty for a privacy lapse, a $22.5m fine against Google in 2012. Facebook also recently started testing an e-commerce product called Checkout, allowing people to buy products within Instagram, another potential source of revenue via the fast-growing app.

An FTC fine of $5 billion would be a landmark penalty for a US tech company: The agency's biggest fine, against Google in 2012, was $22 million. The greater the number of monthly and daily active users, the more Facebook can charge for ads. Without that charge, earnings would have been $1.89, well ahead of analysts' estimate of $1.63 a share. Shares surged as much as 11 per cent in extended trading.

Facebook has launched a major reorganization aiming to boost user privacy.

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Setting aside between $3bn and $5bn will hurt Facebook's shareholders because it means recorded earnings per share of $0.85 compared to what would have been $1.89 per share. Facebook added that "the matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome".

Facebook is expecting legal expenses of between $3 billion and $5 billion.

This whopping fine - which Facebook revealed in its quarterly earnings report is likely to be anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion - is related to a 2011 privacy breach.

Daily active users were in line at 1.56B (up 8%), and monthly active users edged expectations by coming in at 2.38B (also up 8%).

The problems started previous year after news leaked that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that harvested data from up to 87 million Facebook users to influence the 2016 USA presidential election. Earlier this month, the company faced fresh criticism for taking too long to remove a live video of a mass shooting in New Zealand. In a March post published on Zuckerberg's own Facebook page, the CEO said he wanted to make Facebook a more personal experience and focus in on smaller conversations between tighter groups of users, rather than the town square-style ecosystem Facebook has become. Also, some critics have called for the break-up of dominant USA companies, such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, to protect competition.

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