Facebook's revenue rises in first quarter, but profit falls

Just weeks before it's expected to go public, Facebook's latest filing shows a mixed financial picture.

Facebook updated its S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission -- just weeks before it's expected to go public -- and the results are mixed: Its first-quarter revenue rose 45 percent to $1.06 billion compared with a year ago, but it was down 6 percent compared with the last quarter of 2011.

At the same time, the company's net income for the first quarter fell 12 percent, to $205 million from $233 million a year ago. And it was down from $302 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.

That drop in quarterly revenue and profit comes even as Facebook continues to see big user growth, meaning that it's making less on each user. Facebook said that it now has 500 million daily active users, compared with 372 million a year ago, and that its monthly active user number -- people who use Facebook at least once a month -- has climbed to 901 million from 845 million in December.

Its average revenue per use, called ARPU, fell 12 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011, and Facebook said that was mainly due to "seasonal trends." The company points out that it saw the same seasonal weakness during the fourth quarter of 2010.

But Facebook is also spending more as it gears up on several fronts. It's been adding employees, expanding its infrastructure, and spending more on research and marketing. More recently, of course, it spent $1 billion in cash and stock on the photo-sharing app Instagram. We learned today the breakdown: $300 million of that deal was in cash and the rest was stock.

Mobile growth is on fire. Facebook's monthly active mobile users -- people who access Facebook from a mobile device once a month -- stood at 488 million in March. As of April 20, that figure climbed past 500 million. While the company repeatedly stresses the importance of mobile -- both for growth and engagement -- it acknowledges that it still doesn't know how to make money from all the mobile traffic.

"We do not currently directly generate any meaningful revenue from the use of Facebook mobile products, and our ability to do so successfully is unproven," Facebook writes in the S-1.

The company is widely expected to started trading in mid-May and, according to the S-1, will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "FB."

About the author

Paul Sloan is editor in chief of CNET News. Before joining CNET, he had been a San Francisco-based correspondent for Fortune magazine, an editor at large for Business 2.0 magazine, and a senior producer for CNN. When his fingers aren't on a keyboard, they're usually on a guitar. Email him here.

 

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