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Facebook gets approval for Oculus deal ahead of earnings report

(Matt Rourke/AP)

Facebook got good news Wednesday as the Federal Trade Commission gave its seal of approval to the social network's $2 billion acquisition of virtual reality firm Oculus VR.

The deal, announced last month, wasn't expected to hit any regulatory snags. But the FTC decision came just as Facebook headed into its first-quarter earnings report Wednesday afternoon. Analysts expect Facebook to report revenue of about $2.34 billion.

Facebook shares have been on a tear in the last year. Shares were trading around $61.60 per share Wednesday afternoon — up over 130 percent from the same point last year, as the firm has begun to show signs that it can build and grow sustainable ad revenue.

Company watchers will still be looking closely at advertising revenue, paying particular attention to how the firm is performing on mobile devices and how consumers may be reacting to the recent rollout of video ads.

Early indications are strong, said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst of Adobe's Digital Index, which circulated its latest snapshot of the social ad market Tuesday. Facebook's ad impressions are up — something to be expected, since Facebook's video ads auto-play — but so is the all-important measure of ad engagement.

In other words, users actually seem to be liking, sharing and clicking on Facebook video ads.

That's good for Facebook's ad business overall, which also seems to be on solid footing, Gaffney said. Usually, paid media revenue goes down after the holiday season, which happened for Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, Gaffney said. But for Facebook, the ad business kept growing -- even after all those holiday sale buys were done.

"What that tells me is that Facebook is becoming a core part of the media buy for retailers, whereas those others are more secondary," Gaffney said.

Stability in the core business is exactly what Facebook needs to project, particularly after the Oculus acquisition and its recent, more experimental business moves, such as the purchase of drone firm Ascenta. The firm has also fielded questions about focus in response to its app strategy, which seems to revolve around breaking out dedicated apps for single functions — such as messaging — rather than keeping several functions all in one app.

In recent comments to the New York Times, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said that he's fine with having applications that aren't branded with the Facebook name, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, carrying the banner of innovation for the company at large. Facebook, he said,  is trying to explore things that aren't necessarily tied to its core identity.

"Some things will be, but not everything will have to be, because there are some sets of experiences that are just better with other identities," Zuckergerg said in the interview. "I think you should expect to see more of that, where apps are going to be tied to different audiences that you can share with."

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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