Facebook Is Facing Its Moment of Truth: Goldman

Shares of Menlo Park, Calif.-based social media behemoth Facebook Inc. (FB) continued to plummet Tuesday, down about 4.4% in afternoon trading at $165.27 per share. Facebook stock's 6.8% crash on Monday cost its CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg $6.06 billion in paper losses as the company posted its biggest one-day decline in four years. 

Facebook's slide has been largely attributed to reports over the weekend indicating that political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica received access to data on 50 million users' profiles without their consent. The U.K. company then allegedly collaborated with the Trump campaign to create Facebook ads using details on American voters. In response to the scandal, in which the company has been criticized for mishandling users' personal information, one analyst on the Street suggests that Facebook's long-term future rests largely upon how it manages through the crisis.

Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry spoke in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday indicating that the recent news "certainly introduces a level of uncertainty that we haven't seen with Facebook before." He noted that every fast-growing tech giant was likely to face a similar crisis, pointing to Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) struggle with a "click fraud" scandal over recent years, which raised concerns over fake traffic and put growth prospects for the search giant at serious risk. That said, the Goldman analyst says heightened regulatory measures is "something we have got to watch" and that the prospect of significantly severe measures could "certainly" impact Facebook's growth story. 

Overreaction to Regulation Threat?

Still, not everyone on the Street is so cautious on Facebook. In fact, many are downplaying the risks of the potential data scandal, viewing the sell-off as an overreaction.

On Tuesday, Deutsche Bank issued a note to clients recommending buying FB on its "extremely compelling valuation." Despite new risks, analyst Lloyd Walmsley indicated that his team sees "a large distance between the current issues/investigations and any legislation that would curb Facebook's ad targeting in a meaningful way."

JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth offered a similar "buy on the dip" sentiment in a note to clients Monday. "Despite these negative headlines and increased concerns around user data and regulatory risk, we do not believe Facebook's business is currently being impacted," wrote Anmuth. "We recognize the potential for ongoing negative news flow, but Facebook shares currently trade at 18.5x 2019E GAAP EPS, and we would be adding on the pullback." (See also: FAANG Shorts Gain $980M in Tech Sell-Off.)

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