Analysts, investors and naysayers alike are waiting with bated breath today in anticipation of Facebook's fourth quarter earnings report. The company is expected to report $1.53 billion in revenue from the final quarter in 2012, up from $1.26 billion in the third quarter. After hitting record lows around $17 per share last September, Facebook has been climbing back up to its lofty IPO price of $38 per share as it promises to figure out a mobile revenue model.
According to Spruce Media, a social marketing platform that handles $150 million a year in Facebook ads, "Ending 2012 and going into 2013, we see Brands continuing their Facebook investment from being a “let’s try this out” to a “must-buy”... Facebook had an extremely productive 2012 and has shown the market that they have a commitment to developing innovative advertising products that provide a better user experience."
In the fourth quarter, Facebook aggressively rolled out mobile product updates, flexing its muscle in an area that the social company has historically been slow to expand into. At the time of writing, Facebook is trading at $31.20 a share - a far cry from its mid-2012 lows.
Read on to see quotes of what observers expect from Facebook's fourth quarter:
(See also: How Facebook Got Busy During Its Third Quarter)
From The Wall Street Journal:
"Whether it's Snapchat or Twitter... consumers can be finicky," said Aaron Kessler, an analyst with Raymond James Associates Inc. "That's the real question: Does Facebook have staying power on mobile?"
From Yahoo Finance:
"I expect a big number," says Eric Jackson, shareholder and founder of Ironfire Capital... "I think Facebook probably had a great fourth quarter, it's their biggest quarter of the year."
While Facebook's recently announced graph search is still in its infancy, Jackson says the company is throwing so many things at the wall right now that at least a few of them are bound to stick and make money, and more importantly, ''grow into its valuations."
From Money Morning:
"...analysts at Sterne Agee reiterated their "Buy" rating on Facebook in anticipation of strong Q4 results. The firm predicts a 75% increase in sequential mobile revenue growth, an area key to Facebook's financial success.
The fresh nod of confidence from Sterne Agee comes on the heels of a handful of recent upgrades. Raymond James (NYSE: RJF) analysts just boosted their rating on Facebook to an "Outperform" from a "Market Perform" and set a price target of $38.
"We continue to like Facebook shares and view the company as arguably the most under-levered name in the Internet sector," RBC wrote in a research note.
Analyst consensus puts Facebook’s revenue at $1.5 billion for the quarter. On Wednesday, Facebook was trading over $31 per share shortly after the market’s open, up around 2 percent from the previous day’s close.
Shares of Facebook, scheduled to report fourth-quarter financial results after the closing bell on Wednesday, traded up 3% to $32.47, after Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia reaffirmed a buy rating.
Both analysts cited Facebook’s mobile momentum — once referred to as “mobile mojo” by another analyst, after the company reported that 14% of its total ad revenues were now derived from its mobile business.
Gene Munster, a Piper Jaffray tech analyst with ratings of "overweight" - the equivalent of "buy" - on both stocks, says the shift is because Apple's growth looks like it is slowing, while Facebook's growth seems to be picking up.
"Facebook is continuing to push for aggressive growth," he said. "Aggressive-growth investors really tend not to care what they pay for a stock, as long as the growth is very rapid."
Still, as its post-IPO nosedive suggests, Facebook isn't immune to volatility and remains something of a wild card as investors and analysts try to make sense of how the social network fits into the market - and just how much money Facebook can wring out of its developing mobile business model.