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Almost two billion people are on Facebook now

Facebook said it made a net profit of $3.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

FACEBOOOK’S PROFITS MORE than doubled in the final three months of 2016, as the social media platform saw its audience grow and head towards the two billion mark.

The big jump in income announced last night came despite controversy swirling around Facebook’s role in spreading fake news, and a Texas jury ordering the company to pay $500 million to a software firm that claims its virtual reality technology was stolen.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has described virtual reality as one of the company’s important long-range investments.

In earnings that beat most forecasts, Facebook said it made a net profit of $3.7 billion on revenue of $8.6 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with profit of $1.6 billion on $5.6 billion in revenue in the same period a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of people using the Facebook each month increased 17% to 1.86 billion.

The ranks of people logging into the world’s leading social network site from mobile devices each month grew to 1.74 billion, a 21% increase from the same period a year earlier.

Upwardly mobile

Income from ads on mobile devices accounted for about 84% of Facebook’s overall advertising revenue in the final quarter of last year.

Facebook saw strong growth in Asia, with India being a hot market. The social network site still hopes to get into China, where the service is banned.

“Our mission is to connect everyone in the world and it’s hard to do that over the long-term if we don’t find a way to serve the more than billion people who live in China,” Zuckerberg said while answering questions from analysts on an earnings call.

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Baird research analyst Colin Sebastian said in a note to investors that “few companies share Facebook’s combination of scale, strong technology orientation, and platform breadth/diversity.”

Facebook shares jumped more than 2% in after-market trades, returning to 15 cents above the closing price of $133.23 after chief financial officer David Wehner told analysts that the social network has run out of spare room for ads and plans to invest “aggressively.”

Company priorities include data centers, virtual reality, search and artificial intelligence.

AI has the potential to help find videos or other content people might like on Facebook, and to recognise and remove posts that violate community standards, according to Zuckerberg.

© – AFP 2017

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