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Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook reported stellar earnings Wednesday, despite a scandal-ridden end to 2018. It beat estimates on revenue, earnings and user growth and said it's making far more money per user than analysts expected, much more than it ever has before.

Why it matters: The company is facing unprecedented scrutiny from policymakers, business partners and privacy advocates, but strong growth — particularly overseas — demonstrates that users and advertisers are largely unfazed by the corporate drama.

The new numbers:

  • 2.7 billion monthly active users across all of its apps
  • 2 billion daily active users across all of its apps
  • 66% of Facebook core app users also are daily active users 
  • 500 million daily active users of Instagram Stories
  • 7 million total advertisers across all apps 
  • 2 million total businesses active on Stories 

The big takeaways on growth:

  • Facebook has improved its ability to monetize users. While user growth was strong, just about matching estimates, average revenue per user was up much higher than expected, by 20% year over year.
  • The Asia-Pacific region is booming. The company added more daily active users and monthly actives users across every region in the world, including North America, which is largely saturated with existing Facebook users, anyway. It experienced especially strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • It posted a record $6.8 billion in profits, despite executives' assurance that investments in safety and security on its platform have been so costly that they have affected its bottom line.
  • Facebook warned revenue growth would slow. "Revenue growth rates will continue to decelerate throughout 2019 on constant current basis," said chief financial officer David Wehner. The company said it will rely more heavily on Story ads than News Feed ads for growth.

The big takeaways on policy:

  • Facebook's earnings call didn’t touch policy, per Axios' David McCabe. Neither analysts nor the company addressed one of the the company's main concerns in Washington, an ongoing Federal Trade Commission investigation into its privacy practices.
  • But Facebook says the privacy issue could hurt its bottom line this year. Wehner warned that Facebook could face "headwinds" on its ad-targeting business due to privacy concerns in 2019.
  • Safety and security cost the company more than expected. "A lot of our business challenges have been self imposed," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg, "Investment in security and safety increased cost and reduced revenue."

The big takeaways on the future of the business:

  • Messaging is a massive priority: Executives spoke at length about the importance of monetizing and improving Facebook's messaging services. The company has made plans to integrate the workings of its messaging apps.
  • Stories are driving advertising growth: The company announced that 2 million businesses are actively using Facebook Stories. Zuckerberg said stories and messaging are becoming more central to the user experience.
  • The company took PR around earnings seriously. Executives called reporters with prepared talking points as soon as the earnings were released Wednesday afternoon. Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg did a few televised interviews as well.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Army to award Purple Hearts to troops injured in Iran missile attack

Damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing U.S. and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar in January 2020. Photo: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

The Army has approved 39 more Purple Hearts for U.S. soldiers wounded in an Iranian military ballistic missile attack on an Iraq base in January 2020, the Army Times first reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: Most of these soldiers sustained brain injuries, per the Army Times. Then-President Trump dismissed their injuries at the time as "headaches" and "not very serious," sparking backlash from some veterans groups.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.