Facebook posts record profit despite year of scandal

Fourth-quarter results beat expectations for earnings and revenue as profit hits $6.88bn, up from $4.27bn a year before

Facebook closed the book on its scandal-plagued year Wednesday, with strong fourth quarter financial results that beat analyst expectations for earnings and revenue.

The results highlighted how divorced Facebook’s business success is from its public reputation, which suffered another blow Wednesday when Apple punished the app maker for violating its rules with a program that paid users as young as 13 to install an app that surveilled them.

The company posted a record profit of $6.88bn for the final three months of 2018, compared with $4.27bn the year before, with revenue rising 30% to $16.64bn.

Key usage metrics – daily active users and monthly active users – both saw 9% year-over-year growth. Facebook now estimates that it has 2bn daily active users of at least one of its entire “family” of apps – Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

The positive results for revenue and user growth sent shares soaring 8% in after-hours trading.

Crucially, usage metrics grew across all geographic regions, including slight growth in Europe and North America. In July, Facebook’s stock price plummeted after the second-quarter earnings showed stagnating user growth in North America and a slight decline in Europe.

On a conference call with investors, executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg sketched a path for the company to move forward from the constant damage control mode of 2018. Both executives attempted to frame the company’s extensive problems – such as the misuse of private data, rampant misinformation, and foreign influence operations – as “social issues” endemic to the internet as a whole, and not particular to Facebook.

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