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The real cost of Facebook’s controversies: Nearly $150 billion in market cap gone in 90 minutes

Updated Jul 26th, 2018 7:05AM EDT
Facebook Earnings Disaster
Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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The Facebook stock tanked back in March when the Cambridge Analytica user privacy scandal hit, and it took the company quite a while to recover. In the process, Facebook vowed to improve protections for user data, rolled out GDPR-friendly user data management tools, and promised to investigate other developers who may have abused access to Facebook data. Mark Zuckerberg faced hearings in the US and Europe, and while he did not address all the issues raised in regards to Facebook’s business practices, the stock recovered.

But it all came crashing down on Wednesday, after Facebook posted earnings for the second quarter of the year, and during the conference call that delivered the horrible news about Facebook’s short-term prospects.

Facebook lost nearly $150 billion in market value in 90 minutes, Business Insider reports. That’s huge. To put things in perspective, IBM’s market cap is at $134 billion.

Facebook’s Q2 results missed Wall Street expectations for revenue and the number of daily and monthly active users. That caused a dip of 8% on the news, and the stock stayed there up until Facebook’s chief financial officer David Wehner started discussing the fiscal outlook.

The exec said Facebook’s revenue growth would slow from the 42% posted in the June quarter, and operating margins will fall from 44% during the period.

During the call, the stock fell more than 24%, wiping $148 billion in market cap at its lowest point. The stock closed at $217.50 on Wednesday, dropping as low as 165.96 in after hour trading. The stock recovered somewhat since then, but it’s trading at $180 at the time of this writing, which is still down more than 17%.

Back in March, the stock fell from around $185 to $152 on the Cambridge Analytica news, and it needed almost two months to recover.

This time around, it may take Facebook longer to bounce back, as Wehner’s forecast didn’t look good.

“Looking beyond 2018, we anticipate that total expense growth will exceed revenue growth in 2019,” he said. “Over the next several years, we would anticipate that our operating margins will trend towards the mid-thirties on a percentage basis.”

He warned analysts not to expect the company’s financials to get better anytime soon saying that the sub-par operating margins will last for “several years… more than two, less than many.”

Facebook’s privacy scandals have hurt the company’s bottom line and will continue to do so for quite a while. Facebook is now forced to let users better manage their data including opting out of some data collections.

According to Wehner, two other factors hurt Facebook’s bottom line, including the dollar’s decline this year, and Facebook’s pivot to Stories, which don’t bring in as much money as other features.

If there was one good news during the earnings call, it came from Zuckerberg who said that some 2.5 billion people use at least one of Facebook’s apps each month. That wasn’t enough to prevent the bloodshed.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.