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Facebook tackles stock price complaints in first shareholder meeting

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg introduces a new feature called "Graph Search" during a media event at the company's headquarters i
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg introduces a new feature called "Graph Search" during a media event at the company's headquarters i

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg faced a barrage of questions on Tuesday about the company's slumping stock price during the No. 1 social networking company's first shareholder meeting since its rocky initial public offering last May.

Zuckerberg, who has presided over a 37 percent decline in the stock since its debut at $38, said he believed Facebook was on the right path toward long-term success, even though he was disappointed with its performance on Wall Street.

Nothing "has made me really think that the fundamental strategy is wrong or that what we're building isn't valuable," the 29-year-old Facebook co-founder said at the event at a hotel in Millbrae, California.

In what Zuckerberg acknowledged had become a "theme" of the meeting, several Facebook shareholders complained during the question-and-answer session about how they had suffered from the stock's decline. They shared personal anecdotes about buying the stock with high hopes, and sought guidance on whether they might ever recoup their losses.

Facebook, with about 1.1 billion users, became the first U.S. company to debut on stock markets with a value of more than $100 billion. But aside from its first day of trading, its shares have never traded above their offering price.

The company has scrambled to address one of the main concerns weighing on the stock price, by developing mobile ads better suited to small smartphone screens that users increasingly use to access the service.

Mobile ads account for 30 percent of Facebook's ad revenue. But revenue growth remains sharply below that of two years ago, and the popularity of new mobile apps aimed at younger users has raised concerns that Facebook may risk losing its grip on consumers.

Zuckerberg said Facebook would continue to grow alongside newer, rival services.

"None of the trends that we see right now seem like they should get in the way of our success in any meaningful way," he said.

He noted at another point during the event that the amount of "likes" and comments that users post on the service "has gone up per person about 50 percent" during the past year.

Zuckerberg also reiterated previous comments that Facebook does not give the National Security Agency direct access to its servers or user data. This was in response to reports in the Guardian and the Washington Post last week about a secret government program to collect data from leading Internet companies.

"No one has every approached us to do anything like what was reported," Zuckerberg said.

Shares of Facebook closed 1.2 percent lower at $24.03 on Nasdaq amid a broad decline in the market.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang)

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