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Facebook profits surge as user base expands

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Facebook on Wednesday reported a powerful surge in profits as the user base of leading social network continued to climb.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Facebook on Wednesday reported a powerful surge in profits as the user base of leading social network continued to climb.

Profit in the first quarter tripled from a year ago to US$1.5 billion as revenue jumped to US$5.4 billion from US$3.5 billion in the same period a year earlier.

"We had a great start to the year," said Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

The key metric of monthly active users rose to 1.65 billion, up 15 per cent from a year ago. And those using Facebook daily rose 16 per cent to 1.09 billion, with strong gains in numbers of people using mobile devices.

The report shows Facebook is using its dominant position in social media to boost advertising revenues as it connects more people with new services such as live video.

Facebook also announced that its board of directors has approved a plan to create a non-voting class of stock intended to raise capital while leaving Mr Zuckerberg in control of the company's vision and direction.

Shareholders will get to vote on the proposal at an annual stockholders meeting on June 20, according to Facebook.

The move aims to allow Mr Zuckerberg to remain in charge even as he gives away the bulk of his holdings to charity as he announced last year with his wife.

"The board's proposal will allow Facebook to maintain and improve upon the structure that has served shareholders well, while also enabling Mark to pursue his important goals through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative," a Facebook statement said.

Facebook shares were up more than nine percent to US$119 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings report.

Revenue that the California-based social network took in from adversing alone soared 57 per cent in the quarter.

"Facebook just keeps getting stronger and stronger every quarter. Its share of digital advertising is continuing to grow, and it is steadily adding new revenue streams," said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson.

"Two years after Facebook rolled out premium ads in the news feed, we see advertisers moving past the experimentation stage and beginning to craft advertising specifically for Facebook - rather than simply repurposing TV spots." The market tracker forecast that Facebook would capture US$10.2 billion in display ad revenue in the United States this year to claim 31.2 per cent of the money spent.

Mobile was expected to account for the bulk of Facebook's digital ad revenue in the US this year, with Instagram and video formats aimed at smartphones or tablets driving growth.

Facebook has been cautiously optimistic about the potential for money-making advertising on its popular services such as Instagram, Messenger and Live real-time video streaming.

"As we expected, Facebook is putting a lot of emphasis on Messenger this year, and the announcements at f8 earlier this month show that it is on a path toward monetizing that service," Mr Williamson said, referring to the social network's annual developers conference.

"Instagram remains popular with advertisers, and the ad rollout appears to be going smoothly among Instagram users."

Facebook has moved beyond its role in social networking to ramp up its messaging platform, and has also moved into virtual reality with its Oculus headsets for which orders have begun.

AFP