Facebook shares rise to record highs

Facebook has said it expects sales and user growth for its mobile apps to outpace its desktop website.

Facebook. Picture: AFP.

SAN FRANCISCO - Shares of Facebook Inc. rose more than 3 percent to a new high Wednesday, valuing the world's No. 1 social network at $106 billion, as investors focused on its recent mobile advertising advances and the potential to expand ad revenue into new areas.

The stock touched $45 at 1:50 pm and briefly hit $45.07 shortly after 2 pm on the Nasdaq - highs not seen since May 18, 2012, the day of Facebook's initial public offering. It closed at $45.04.

The stock's new intraday high is the latest milestone in a remarkable recovery following a rocky Wall Street debut, in which traded at half its $38 offering price at one point.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, speaking at a technology conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, said the IPO process had made Facebook stronger by forcing it to better understand the various facets of its business.

"Having gone through what I think most people would characterise as an extremely turbulent first year as a public company, I can tell you I actually don't think it's that bad," said Zuckerberg, noting that his fears of employee defections and low morale due to the slumping stock price were overblown.

Zuckerberg, 29, who co-founded Facebook in a Harvard dorm room, also said he had rethought his previous view that staying privately held for as long as possible was the best strategy.

"In retrospect, I was too afraid of going public," Zuckerberg said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

Zuckerberg did not discuss future video ad products or plans to make money from its Instagram unit. The mobile photo app, acquired in 2012 by Facebook, is popular with young people but does not carry any advertising.

With 1.15 billion monthly users, Facebook is the world's largest social network and ranks among the top online display advertising businesses.

Wall Street's view of Facebook improved markedly in July, when the company said its mobile advertising revenue grew 75 percent in the second quarter, trouncing analyst targets and delivering the company's strongest revenue growth since the third quarter of 2011.

Facebook options also traded heavily on Wednesday.

The top trade on Facebook on Wednesday was a 10,250-lot of September $39 strike puts, which were bought for 7 cents per contract as a new position.