Facebook’s Market Value Tops AT&T

August 3, 2014 by Douglas A. McIntyre

One company’s sales are huge. Those of the other are not. Despite AT&T’s (NYSE: T) substantial lead in revenue, its market cap is now below Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB). The story is almost as old as the modern stock market. Facebook’s growth prospects are spectacular. AT&T is hardly growing at all.

As of last week, AT&T’s market cap was $184.8 billion to Facebook’s $188.9 billion.

AT&T’s Achilles Heel for several years has been its legacy residential land line business. People have quickly migrated away from the traditional phone to VoIP or cellular service. AT&T has been left with a massive national infrastructure, which has to be maintained.  Land line (what AT&T calls “wireless”) revenue in the quarter which ended June 30 was $14.6 billion of the company’s $32.8 billion in  revenue. The wireless operation brought in revenue of $17.9 billion. The really telling numbers are on the bottom lines. Land line operating income was $1.4 billion, and wireless $4.3 billion. However, the success of wireless has not been able to pull the entire company out of its current slow-growth status. In the second quarter, revenue was $32.6 billion up from $32.1 billion in the same quarter the year before. Operating income dropped from $6.1 billion to $5.6 billion over the same period.

AT&T’s additional problem is that its wireless operation is not growing rapidly any longer either. Competition, particularly on a price-to-the-consumer basis has been pressured by Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint (NYSE: S) in a war in which no one will win–other than the consumer perhaps.

Facebook’s revenue should be over $14 billion this year, against AT&T’s $125 billion. However, Facebook’s growth rate as of the June quarter was wild. reaching $2.9 up from $1.8 billion in the June quarter. Its operating income was $1.4 billion in the most recent quarter, up from less than $600 million in the same period a year ago. Based on that measure, Facebook could actually pass AT&T in terms of operating profit in a few short years.

Of course, the challenge for Facebook is that its growth may stall and not make expectations. If so, its market cap success story will end.