Analyst Seriously Discounts Teen Usage Concerns on Facebook

February 11, 2014 by Jon C. Ogg

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Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) may have a problem down the road if its teenage user rates do not start to normalize. Or will it? The answer depends upon whom you speak to on this matter. Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia and Brett Strauser sent out a post-earnings note for the social media group addressing what seems to be lower and lower usage among teens.

If you watched the post-earnings reaction in Facebook shares you might wonder if teen usage rates are worth anything at all. To be clear, Sterne Agee still has a Buy rating and a $70 price target. Shares even hit a post-IPO high on Tuesday.

The Sterne Agee team’s note is “Teenager Engagement on Facebook” and addresses an article in eMarketer on Tuesday which was titled “Are Teens Really Unfriending Facebook?”

Their aim is to put the issue of teenager engagement in perspective. The key conclusions mentioned in the article were that Facebook has more than 95% of teenagers that use social networks. They also noted, “It’s not so much that Facebook is losing teens as that it’s losing the exclusive power to define what social networking means for them… While Snapchat, Vine and Instagram (owned by Facebook) may be attracting teens, the all-important fact is that Facebook is still far and away the largest social platform and mobile app used.”

eMarketer said,

“A brand is in a tricky position when it has no place to go but down. Given its must-have status among US teens in recent years—eMarketer estimates 95.9% of social networkers ages 12 to 17 used Facebook in 2013—that’s the position Facebook finds itself in, according to a new eMarketer report, US Teens: Sizing Up the Selfie-Expressive Generation… And there are indications it’s vulnerable to a downturn.”

Again, Sterne Agee’s research note is keeping a Buy rating and a $70 price target. The team has earnings estimates of $1.32 per share for 2014 and $1.70 per share for 2015. The Thomson Reuters consensus earnings estimates are $1.25 per share in 2014 and $1.68 for 2015.

The long and short of the matter is that Sterne Agee’s team here is looking for above-consensus earnings estimates. If teen use is a problem, they are discounting it almost entirely. Facebook’s stock price was up 2% at $64.86 right at the close of trading on Tuesday, and the stock hit a new all-time high and post-IPO high of $65.00.