Facebook, Inc. Earnings: What to Watch

Investors will get a timely glimpse into Facebook's (NASDAQ: FB) business next week when the social network reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, July 25 after the market closes. Amid a period of rapid growth and heightened scrutiny in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, investors and the media will be looking over the quarterly update closely.

In light of the company's expectation-crushing performance in recent quarters, the bar is high going into this quarter's results. Some key areas to watch will include advertising revenue growth, earnings per share, and any commentary on Facebook's growing video efforts.

Advertising revenue growth

Facebook makes nearly all of its money through advertising based on user data from its social platforms -- Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Facebook. Of Facebook's $12 billion in first-quarter revenue, more than 98% came from digital advertising.

What should investors expect from advertising revenue in Q2? Not only has Facebook been serving investors astronomical year-over-year growth in ad revenue recently, but growth in the key metric has accelerated, rising from 47% growth in the second quarter of last year to 50% growth in the company's most recent quarter. While this trend implies that growth will be strong again in Facebook's second quarter of 2018, investors should expect some deceleration as the social network goes up against a tough year-ago comparison.

Expecting advertising revenue growth between about 40% and 45% seems reasonable.

Earnings per share growth

Facebook's earnings per share have been soaring recently, rising 63% year over year in the company's most recent quarter. Even on a trailing-12-month basis, Facebook's EPS have increased about 64% year over year. This EPS growth has easily outpaced the company's 47% year-over-year growth in trailing-12-month revenue during this period.

Facebook can thank its strong operating leverage as of late for its outsize earnings growth. The company's operating expense growth simply hasn't been able to keep up with its soaring revenue. This trend, however, could start to change in the coming quarters -- at least based on Facebook's guidance for full-year operating expense growth of 50% to 60%. If Facebook's operating expenses do increase that much, earnings-per-share growth could decelerate substantially. But investors should note that Facebook's operating expense guidance has historically proven to be conservative.

Investors should expect earnings-per-share growth for the quarter to be between 20% and 40%. But given the uncertainty associated with Facebook's operating expense growth during the period, actual growth could easily fall outside of this range.

Facebook's video content efforts

Last, investors should look for an update on Facebook's video ambitions. Management has said one of the key drivers behind its expected sharp increase in operating expenses will be investments in video content. Facebook CFO David Wehner said during Facebook's first-quarter earnings call that video investments will particularly weigh on expense growth in the back three quarters of the year.

To this end, Facebook recently launched IGTV on Instagram. The video content platform, which is available to view within the Instagram app and from a new dedicated IGTV app, brings a long-form, YouTube-like video platform to Instagram.

Investors should look for updates from management on how IGTV and other video efforts are going for Facebook.

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