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Facebook founder eyes mobiles after IPO flop
In rare public appearance, Mark Zuckerberg discusses company stock price and mission of making world more connected.
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2012 12:56
Zuckerberg rejected criticism that the company was ill-prepared for a shift to mobile devices [Reuters]

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has said the social network is focused on mobile devices and should be seen as a smart bet despite a "disappointing" stock market debut.

"It is really clear from the stats and my own personal intuition that a lot of energy in the ecosystem is going to mobile, not desktop," Zuckerberg said on Tuesday during an on-stage interview at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

"That is the future," he continued. "We are going to be doing killer stuff there."

Zuckerberg was adamant that the company was being underestimated and was on track to make "more money on mobile than we make on desktop."

His appearance at the conference marked his first public interview since the massive public offering on May 18 that was hotly anticipated but ended up being a financial flop.

Facebook shares have lost around half their value since the IPO at $38 a share.

Disappointing shares

"The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing," Zuckerberg acknowledged.

Facebook has made a priority of following its more than 900 million members onto smart phones and tablet computers, by tailoring services and money-making ads for mobile devices.

The company's shares gained 3.30 per cent on Wall Street on Tuesday to close at $19.43.

Then in after-hours trading following Zuckerberg's remarks, the stock gained 3.45 per cent to $20.10.

Zuckerberg rejected criticism that the company was ill-prepared for a shift to mobile devices, where Facebook has only begun to earn ad revenues.

"Now, we are a mobile company," he said.

The company would pursue its "mission" of making the world more social and connected, cranking profit for shareholders, he added.

"Building a mission and building a business go hand in hand," Zuckerberg said. "From the beginning we've had this understanding we've had to do both."

Zuckerberg has stated repeatedly, even in pre-IPO paperwork with US regulators, that Facebook did not build great services to make money but rather made money to build great services.

Zuckerberg acknowledges 'missteps'

When pressed on the point, in the context of the California-based company losing more than $50 billion in value based on the stock price drop, Zuckerberg was quick to add that making money was a component of its broader mission.

He conceded that the stock price plummet has dimmed morale of workers compensated with shares but that Facebook staff are accustomed to criticism and "have a pretty good compass" pointing to better days.

Stock compensation for Facebook employees is made based on cash value of shares, meaning that workers are actually awarded more shares when the stock is listed at lower prices, according to the chief executive.

"I actually think it is a great time for people to join and a great time for people to stay and double-down," Zuckerberg said of the Facebook team. "We are seeing that."

Zuckerberg rejected suggestions that Facebook would make its own smart phone, adamant that the company had no intention of stepping into the fiercely competitive handset hardware arena.

"Apple, Google, everyone builds phones. We are going in the opposite direction," Zuckerberg said. "We want to build a system deeply integrated in every device people want to use."

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AFP
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