Facebook search to generate revenue, no rival to Google: analysts

Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:05pm EST
 

By Sayantani Ghosh

(Reuters) - Facebook Inc's new search tool has strong potential to generate revenue for the social networking company, though it is unlikely to challenge Google Inc as the world's dominant search engine, Wall Street analysts said on Wednesday.

Facebook's "graph search" tool, rolled out on Tuesday, lets its more than 1 billion users trawl their network of friends to find everything from restaurants to movie recommendations and is the company's biggest foray into online search.

Graph search contains some category suggestions that can be easily monetized, BofA Merrill Lynch analysts said in a note.

"It should be easy to incorporate commercial search results via Facebook's partnership with Bing," they added.

Facebook currently has a partnership with Microsoft Corp, whose Bing search engine provides search results for external websites. Microsoft also integrates certain Facebook results into its Bing search results.

BofA Merrill Lynch analysts estimated Facebook could add $500 million in annual revenue if it can generate just one paid click per user per year, and raised its price target on the stock by $4 to $35.

Facebook's shares were flat at $30.10 in early trading on Wednesday. They have jumped about 50 percent since November to Tuesday's close after months of weakness following its bungled Nasdaq listing in May.

However, analysts at J.P. Morgan Securities said the lack of a timeline for the possible launch of graph search on mobile devices may weigh on the tool's prospects.   Continued...

 
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg listens to a question after introducing a new feature called "Graph Search" during a media event at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith