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Facebook Paid $19 Billion for WhatsApp, Which Lost $138 Million Last Year

WhatsApp made just $10 million in revenue in 2013.

Alexander Supertramp/Shutterstock

WhatsApp was far from profitable when Facebook shelled out roughly $19 billion for the messaging app in February, according to new SEC filings.

According to the documents, WhatsApp reported just over $10 million in revenue in 2013, and a total net loss of $138 million for the year. It should be noted a big part of that loss, about $98.8 million, comes in the form of stock-based compensation. Even then, the company’s operating at about a $40 million loss, which isn’t unusual for a startup.

What is unusual (or brilliant, depending how this turns out) is the reason why Facebook bought the service — which has more than 600 million monthly active users today. By the time the deal was finalized earlier this month, it was worth approximately $22 billion.

Facebook has said that it doesn’t plan to count on WhatsApp as a revenue stream any time soon. The app currently makes money with small, annual subscription fees, but doesn’t advertise to it users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said multiple times that he plans to let the service grow — possibly for a few more years — before the company attempts to monetize its global user base.

Still, it’s a very high price for a startup that more than doubled its losses last year from the previous year when it recorded a $54 million loss.

Perhaps the most revealing figures this quarter are the various line items Facebook used to value WhatsApp. In the social network’s eyes, it paid $2 billion for WhatsApp’s user base; $488 million for its brand value; $288 million for its tech; and — wait for it — $15.3 billion for its “goodwill” value, which, by definition, is intangible.

It looks like Facebook really wanted WhatsApp, no matter the cost, or the losses.

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