Facebook worth a 'like', says official

Social media giant's operations chief confident firm has made big improvements in business

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 4:18am

A year after Facebook's fumbled initial public offering, Wall Street remains slow to recognise what the company's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, argues has been an across-the-board improvement in its business.

Facebook's ability to deliver advertisements to mobile phones, improvements in measuring the effectiveness of its ads and increasing user engagement have all put the world's largest social network in a better position than before the IPO, Sandberg said on Wednesday.

"When I look back at the last year since we went public, I believe we are unequivocally a much stronger company today than we were on literally any metric I can think of," Sandberg said at the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

Facebook became the first US technology company to debut with a value of more than US$100 billion, in May 2012. Its shares have lost almost 40 per cent of their value since.

Sandberg said: "I can't speak to the stock price but I do feel strongly that we are a better-positioned, stronger company than we were a year ago."

With 1.1 billion users, Facebook is one of the web's most popular destinations for consumers and advertisers. But growth in the company's revenue has slowed sharply from two years ago and some investors fret that a new crop of mobile apps aimed at younger users could chip away at Facebook's hold on consumers.

Analysts also wonder if the company's depressed share price could dampen morale and hamper its ability to attract talent.

Sandberg, a former executive with Google, said: "I don't think it's actually had a huge impact," adding that while there had been some worries in the company about it, she was less worried, as she had been through it before.

The cool investor reception to Facebook and other recent consumer dotcom debutantes from Groupon to Zynga has helped chill the Silicon Valley IPO train.

Roelof Botha, a partner in venture capital firm Sequoia, said at a panel about the fate of Silicon Valley public offerings: "If you miss in the first six months of being a public company, you're in the penalty box for a very long time. If you beat too much, you're an idiot, because you should have forecast higher."

Facebook's new mission is to carve out a dominant position in smartphones and tablets to keep up with consumer habits.