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Facebook reports strong quarter driven by mobile ads

Warwick Ashford

Facebook has beaten analyst expectations with first-quarter profits of $642m and revenues of $2.5bn, an increase of 72% compared with the same period in 2013.

The social networking firm’s strong financial performance was driven mainly by a surge in mobile advertising, which contributed 59% of advertising revenue, up from 30% a year ago.

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Total revenue from advertising was $2.27bn, an 82% increase compared with the first three months of 2013, but investors have seen mobile advertising as a key indicator.

After a disastrous initial public listing in May 2012, market pundits said the future success of Facebook rested on its ability to tap into the mobile advertising market.

Investor confidence was reflected in a 4.3% increase in Facebook share value in after-hours trading, according to the BBC.

"Facebook's business is strong and growing, and this quarter was a great start to 2014," said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and chief executive.

"We've made some long-term bets on the future while staying focused on executing and improving our core products and business,” he said.

The social networking firm said its monthly active users were up to 1.28 billion at the end of March, and increase of 15% year-over-year.

Of those, 1.01 billion were accessing Facebook using mobile devices, an increase of 34% year-over-year.

Facebook has invested heavily in attracting mobile users. This includes its acquisition of Instagram in a $1bn deal and its planned acquisition of WhatsApp in a $19bn deal.

According to research firm eMarketer, while global digital ad spending rose 14.6% to $119.8bn in 2013, mobile global advertising grew 105% to about $18bn.

While global digital ad spending is expected to increase another 14.8% in 2014, mobile global advertising is projected to grow 75.1% to reach $31.45bn.

Facebook also announced that David Ebersman is to step down as chief financial officer after serving in the position for almost five years.

On 1 June 2014, he will be succeeded as CFO by David Wehner, currently Facebook's vice-president of corporate finance and business planning.

Ebersman, who will remain with the company until September, said he plans to return to the healthcare industry.

Wehner joined Facebook in November 2012 from Zynga, where he served as CFO. Earlier, he spent nine years at Allen & Company where he was a managing director.

"David has been a great partner in building Facebook, and I'm grateful for everything he's done to help make the world more open and connected," said Zuckerberg. 

"He set us up to operate efficiently and make the long-term investments we need, and built an incredibly strong team.”

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