Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in his first interview since the company’s initial public offering, said Tuesday that he’s taking steps to address the missteps that have weighed on shares and made it hard to make money from mobile advertising.
“Now we are a mobile company,” Zuckerberg said in an onstage interview at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. “Over the next three to five years, I think the biggest question that is on everyone’s minds, that will determine our performance over that period, is really how well we do with mobile.”
Shares in Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook increased 65 cents, or 3.4 percent, hitting $20.08 in after-hours trading. That’s on top of a 3.3 percent gain during the regular session.
Zuckerberg’s remarks allayed concerns over the company’s ability to generate sales from users who are increasingly socializing over hand-held devices. The stock had plunged 49 percent since the May 17 IPO amid signs of slowing growth and executives’ silence over how they plan to turn the tide.
“He struck an upbeat tone,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in San Francisco. “Clearly, from his words, they are making progress in mobile.”
Facebook spent too long trying to build mobile products using a programming language known as HTML5, Zuckerberg, 28, said.
To address the missteps, Facebook is lessening its reliance on those tools, and it has built an application tailored specifically for Apple’s mobile software, he said. It’s also working on an application for Google’s Android.
Zuckerberg said Facebook has a team dedicated to strengthening search capabilities. The company is fielding about a billion search queries a day.
“We have a team working on search,” he said. “Search engines are really evolving toward giving you a set of answers.”
Facebook, which hasn’t closed above the $38 IPO price since its first trading day, reported in July that second-quarter sales increased 32 percent, down from 45 percent in the previous three months.
The share-price performance “has obviously been disappointing” and it “doesn’t help” in terms of employee morale, Zuckerberg said in the interview with Michael Arrington, a venture capitalist.
But Zuckerberg added that it’s a great time to “double down” on the company’s future.
“Facebook has not been an uncontroversial company,” Zuckerberg. “It’s not like this is the first up and down we have ever had.”
He made it clear that Facebook wants to make money and will do that by figuring out mobile.
“I would rather be in a cycle where people underestimate us,” Zuckerberg said. “I think it gives us the latitude to go out and make some big bets.”
Zuckerberg has been largely out of the spotlight since the IPO. In a recent regulatory filing, Facebook said Zuckerberg does not plan to sell any shares in the company for at least the next 12 months. That proved to be a point of relief for investors who are worried about post-IPO “lock-up” expirations that allow early investors and insiders to sell their shares.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.