Facebook CFO Punches Out, as Earnings Blow Out Estimates

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Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has reported its first-quarter earnings for 2014. The social media behemoth posted adjusted earnings of $0.34 per share and revenues of $2.502 billion. We had previously shown why Facebook would have to blow out its earnings expectations — and it did. There is a caveat here due to news of the CFO departure.

Thomson Reuters consensus estimates were $0.24 in operating earnings per share (versus $0.24 a year ago and versus $0.31 in the fourth quarter of 2013). Revenues expectations were $2.36 billion, up from $1.46 billion a year ago and versus $2.586 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013. The company’s non-GAAP operating margin was 55% for the first quarter of 2014, up from 39% for the first quarter of 2013. Its non-GAAP net income for the first quarter was $885 million, up 184% compared from a year ago.

Free cash flow for the first quarter of 2014 was $922 million. Cash and marketable securities were $12.63 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2014. Facebook’s non-GAAP costs and expenses were $1.13 billion in the first quarter of 2014, up 26% compared to $895 million for the first quarter of 2013.

One wild card is that CFO David Ebersman is stepping down later this year. He will be succeeded by David Wehner, effective June 1.

If you want proof of how high expectations were, WhisperNumber.com sent us a whisper number at $0.30 in earnings per share. It even said that the “whisper range” was $0.26 to $0.34 per share.

Revenue from advertising was $2.27 billion, up 82% from a year ago. Daily active users (DAUs) were 802 million on average for March 2014, up 21% from a year ago. Mobile DAUs were 609 million on average for March 2014, up 43%.

Credit Suisse came out with a key upgrade just on Tuesday ahead of the report, raising the Facebook rating to Outperform from Neutral with the price target raised to $87 from $65.

Another observation ahead of earnings was that Facebook put options went ballistic earlier this week — with the January 2015 $45 puts seeing over 30,000 contracts trade, about 150% of its total open interest.

Wednesday’s pre-earnings move was down by 2.65% to $61.36, but the social media giant was up 14% year to date even with a drop of over 410 from its peak. Facebook shares were up 2.7% at $63.03 initially in the after-hours session after the report.

Facebook’s stock chart showed a bit of a dilemma ahead of the report: its 50-day moving average is up above at $65.07 and the 200-day moving average was down at $51.49.