Facebook rides mobile ad sales to earnings of $885M – USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook continued its magic carpet ride of mobile revenue on Wednesday with boffo results.

The company reported first-quarter earnings of $885 million (34 cents per share) on revenue of $2.5 billion. Analysts expected a profit of 24 cents and $2.36 billion in revenue. A year ago, Facebook rang up a profit of 12 cents and revenue of $1.46 billion.

What’s making a difference is mobile, where Facebook’s advertising business is in better shape than anyone would have imagined six months ago. Nearly 60% of the company’s ad sales come from mobile devices. When Facebook went public in May 2012, the figure was a rumor.

More than 1 billion Facebook members used mobile devices, as of March 31, according to the company. “Mobile is a strong driver for us,” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a conference call Wednesday.

Separately, Facebook announced the resignation of its chief financial officer of five years, David Ebersman. He will be succeeded by David Wehner, the former CFO of Zynga.

Shares of Facebook were up almost 5%, to $64.22, in after-hours trading, after closing at $61.36 Wednesday. It reported its results after markets closed.

Facebook snagged 17.5% of the $18 billion worldwide mobile ad market last year, up from 5.4% in 2012, eMarketer says. Google commanded 49.3%, down from 52.4% in 2012.

EMarketer expects Facebook to swipe more market share from Google this year, as the market is expected to mushroom to $31.45 billion. It projects Facebook’s slice to grow to 21.7%, while Google’s could go to 46.8%.

“People are moving to mobile, and Facebook is one of the favorite apps,” says Cathy Boyle, an analyst at eMarketer. She notes that American consumers, on average, are spending three hours a day on mobile devices, up from two hours and 20 minutes a year ago.

Advertisers are increasingly enticed by Facebook’s engaged audience of 1.2 billion members. As of Dec. 31, some 945 million people visited Facebook on a monthly basis via mobile device, up 40% from a year ago.

The question is how much Facebook will be able to charge for mobile ads. Google shares took a drubbing last week after it said the average price for a Google mobile ad dipped 9% last quarter despite a 26% increase overall.

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