Facebook stock sets record as profit trounces estimates

(Reuters) — Facebook Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue on Wednesday as it pushed further into video advertising in a quarter dominated by reports that Russia allegedly used the social network to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections.

The company’s shares were up under 1 percent at $ 184 in after-hours trading, set to add to their 58.8 percent gain this year. The stock hit a record high of $ 182.69 in regular trading.

Facebook is at the center of a political firestorm in the United States for the ways it handles paid political ads and allows the spread of false news stories. U.S. lawmakers have threatened tougher regulation and fired questions at Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch in hearings this week.

Facebook, in a series of disclosures over two months, has said that people in Russia bought at least 3,000 U.S. political ads and published another 80,000 Facebook posts that were seen by as many as 126 million Americans over two years. Russia denies any meddling.

The company did not make any reference to the matter in its statement.

Facebook’s total advertising revenue rose 49 percent in the third quarter to $ 10.14 billion, about 88 percent of which came from mobile ads.

Analysts on average had expected total ad revenue of $ 9.71 billion, according to data and analytics firm FactSet.

The 49 percent increase in total ad sales in the latest quarter, compares with a 47 percent rise in the prior quarter and a 51 percent jump in the first quarter.

Facebook has been warning for more than a year about reaching a limit in “ad load,” or the number of ads the company can feature in users’ pages before crowding their News Feed.

However, advertisers seem unfazed, spending heavily as the social network continues to attract users.

Facebook said about 2.07 billion people were using its service monthly as of Sept. 30, up 16 percent from a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected 2.06 billion monthly active users, according to FactSet.

Net income rose to $ 4.71 billion, or $ 1.59 per share, from $ 2.63 billion, or 90 cents per share.

Analysts on an average were expecting the company to earn $ 1.28, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue increased 47.3 percent to $ 10.33 billion beating analysts estimate of $ 9.84 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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