Facebook Not Growing Much Faster Than Google

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The market barely reacted to news that Facebook Inc.’s (NASDAQ: FB) revenue spiked higher by 40% to $1.585 billion in the fourth quarter of last year, as compared to the same quarter of the previous year. That could be because the Internet’s next big engine of growth did not post growth much better than the Internet’s last big engine of growth — Google. Set side by side with Google, Facebook’s revenue expansion is not extraordinary at all.

Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) growth rate in the fourth quarter was 36%. And the revenue posted in that quarter was $14.42 billion, which makes Facebook’s revenue look very small. Google’s net income from that revenue was $2.89 billion. Facebook’s net for the same period was $64 million.

Supporters of Facebook’s nearly $68 billion market cap claim that the social network has only started to reach its stride. They would argue some proof of that is growth of mobile ad revenue to 23% of advertising revenue in the fourth quarter, up from 14% in the third quarter. However, Facebook did not remark on whether it charged more or less for mobile ads than those run on traditional platforms like personal computers.

One of the marks that Google has become the Web’s current powerhouse is that its growth for more than a decade caused its revenue and market value to blow past the previous generation of Web giants — Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO), AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) and the online properties of Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT). Google today has more revenue than all of those combined, and much, much greater profits.

At a 40% growth rate, it would take decades for Facebook to reach the revenues Google will have, even if Google’s percentage increase in sales slows somewhat. Facebook is not the next Google, and that by itself justifies whatever doubts Wall St. has about its valuation going forward.

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