Regulatory scrutiny could end up helping Facebook: Analyst

Veteran technology analyst Colin Sebastian said growing scrutiny of Facebook could wind up benefiting the social media giant in the end.

CNBC’s Mike Santoli spoke with Sebastian, who leads internet stock research at Baird, in an exclusive interview for CNBC PRO . Santoli asked him about growing regulatory concerns in light of Facebook’s data privacy scandal.

“I think of it more of a distraction,” Sebastian said. “Short-term, there is an impact on profitability. Ironically, though, over the long term, if Facebook moves back to its focus on social networking the connections between friends and family that probably puts them in a stronger position.”

“And then companies that want to access those people are more likely to have to pay for that access,” he added. “So, over the long term, we actually think these changes probably benefit Facebook from a monetization perspective.”

So far, it appears Wall Street agrees with the tech analyst.

Shares of Facebook posted their best day in nearly two years on Tuesday even as the U.S. Senate grilled chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on the company’s handling of user data. The stock climbed 4.5 percent Tuesday and 1.2 percent Wednesday, the second day of Zuckerberg’s Capitol Hill testimony.

Sebastian said that while politicians and businesses will be forced to grapple with user-generated fake news, antitrust efforts in the broader technology sector are largely baseless.

“There it seems to be a bit more of a witch hunt in that industries or legacy companies that were not visionary or innovative are trying to pin their issues on some of these technology innovators and trying to use government forces to put restraints on them,” he said.

Sebastian is a senior research analyst at Robert W. Baird, where he has covered internet and interactive entertainment since 2011. Before that, he spent six years at Lazard Capital Markets developing the company’s internet and video game research. He has also worked at J.P. Morgan/Hambrecht & Quist as an investment banker.

See here for the full CNBC PRO report and the interview video.

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