All eyes are on Facebook this week, as the social media giant will report its Q1 earnings on Wednesday (April 28), facing questions as to whether it can keep up the barnstorming growth spurt it logged in 2020. Facebook will be one of the many Big Tech stocks reporting this week — Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon will all also be dropping their results.
On the whole, analysts are forecasting another earnings season logging big gains, according to reports. Facebook’s advertising prices were up 30 percent year on year in mid-March, its share price hit a new high as of the start of this month and its active user base across its family of app platforms (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) has hit 2.8 billion.
Indeed, there will be much to watch when Facebook reports earnings in two days: what its transition out of the pandemic period will look like, whether its ongoing spat with Apple will continue to heat up, its response to 48 state attorneys generals filing five lawsuits accusing the company of anti-competitive behavior in the digital marketplace. But for payments peeps, it could be particularly interesting and educational when the social media giant turned super-app aspirant talks up its payments plans.
In a new interview, Facebook’s Global Business Group VP Carolyn Everson doubles down on the company’s commitment to pushing digital payments. “We certainly have very, very big plans around being able to facilitate payments between businesses and people and people to people,” Everson noted. “We see being able to provide payment services globally as a really important service that we need to provide to both businesses and consumers.”
And that talking up of payments pre-earnings seems to follow a daily consistent drumbeat of payments news from Facebook over the last several weeks, including its announcement in early April that it would be testing person-to-person QR code payments, allowing users to instantly transfer money with a simple scan. According to early reports, the payments scheme will prompt users with a scan button on the Facebook Pay carousel, allowing them to scan a friend or family member’s QR code, choose an amount and send a payment. Facebook Pay will also unveil personalized payment links, which will direct others to a secure page to transfer money to another user’s account.
The firm also announced in April that its digital currency project, Diem, could launch its first stablecoin in 2021 as a small-scale pilot. Diem is, in essence, the 2.0 version of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project, which generated geat fanfare and great controversy when it was first announced. Diem has moved into the market more quietly; reports indicated that the recently announced pilot program will be smaller and will target transactions between individual consumers.
When it was first rolled out, Facebook’s Diem received major scrutiny, in part due to its 2.8 billion monthly active users in 2020 Q4. Central bankers and politicians were worried that the coin currency could threaten monetary stability. Further, monetary officials were concerned that digital assets could lead to more money laundering. Another concern had to do with security measures and how Facebook planned to protect users’ privacy. Since then, however, Diem has largely slipped off the radar, and its path to market remains largely a mystery heading into Facebook’s earnings update this week.
To say Facebook has a lot going on at the moment is something of an understatement. But the company is clearly thinking about payments — and how it can push them as it solidifies its super-app ambitions going forward. Whether or not payments will play a big part in Facebook’s Wednesday announcements (or analysts’ questions) remains to be seen.