Facebook cheered Wall Street after better-than-expected results boosted by a surge in ad revenues in the run-up to Christmas.
Shares rose 7% in after-hours trading after the social network giant said total revenue rose to $5.84bn (£4.1bn) in the final quarter of 2015 – up 52% from the same period a year earlier. Ad revenue was up 57% to $5.64bn (£3.96bn).
Facebook has been helped by new advertising formats and an improved mobile app, drawing a surge in video views that has attracted greater advertising spending. Mobile ads now account for four-fifths of advertising revenue.
Net income for the quarter more than doubled compared with the year before to $1.56bn (£1.1bn). For the year, revenue climbed 44% to $17.93bn (£12.6bn) while net income rose 25% to $3.69bn (£2.59bn).
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg – who this week returned from two months of paternity leave – said: “2015 was a great year for Facebook. Our community continued to grow and our business is thriving.
“We continue to invest in better serving the community, building our business, and connecting the world.”
Ken Sena, analyst at Evercore ISI, said: “It’s much stronger ad growth than we were expecting.”
Facebook said it had 1.59 billion monthly active users at the end of the year, up 14% from the end of 2014. Of those, 1.44 billion used the service on a mobile device, up 21%.
Apart from its focus on mobile, the California-based firm has been ramping up investment in projects such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and drones to connect the remotest parts of the world to the internet.
It has also begun trying to make money out of units such as photo-sharing app Instagram, which surpassed 400 million users last year and began selling ads in September.
Facebook’s buoyant results are in contrast to the woes of fellow tech giant Apple which – despite posting record quarterly profits of $18.4bn (£12.9bn) – saw shares plunge as it saw a sharp slowdown in sales growth of its iPhones and forecast a fall in volumes for the current period.