Snap's revenue growth of 104% to $824.9 million came at a cost, with the company posting a net loss of $3.4 billion, versus $514.4 million in 2016.
The sharp increase in net loss in 2017 included $2.6 billion of stock-based compensation expense. Deducting this amount leaves a net loss of $845 million.
Nevertheless, investors were cheered by the platform's daily active user growth of 18% in the last quarter year-on-year, to 187 million. Snap's share prices soared in after-hours trading by more than 20% reported CNN.
Snapchat's parent company's revenue growth also beat analyst expectations in the fourth quarter, growing 72% year-on-year to $285.7 million.
"This exceeded what turned out to be our relatively optimistic 64% revenue growth expectation for the quarter (Reuters consensus called for 53% growth)," said Brian Wieser, senior research analyst for advertising at Pivotal Research Group.
Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer of 4C Insights, noted that while Snap benefited from some of the seasonality that's expected during the holidays, it did see some new brands come in and test the platform as a place to engage hard-to-reach audiences.
From an advertising perspective, Snapchat is showing its potential and as more original content comes in, it will be more valuable as a complement to television, Goldman said. "It’s time for brands to embrace each of the "social" platforms as unique advertising vehicles."
Average revenue per user was $1.53 in the fourth quarter of 2017, up 46% year-over-year and cost of revenue per user was up 5% in the last quarter compared with the same period the year before.
"Costs were high, as generally expected, but not quite as high as we forecast for this quarter. This can be viewed positively to a degree, but only to a degree: costs other than stock-based compensation amounted to 162% of revenue in the quarter and 200% of revenue for the year," Wieser commented.
Overall, the full-year results have not altered Pivotal's opinion that Snap's shares are overpriced and should be sold.
"Snap’s risks include heightened uncertainty, the competitive environment, slowing growth in the user base, a lack of a track record in building a successful business, high costs and ongoing dilution as well as sub-optimal organisational design and corporate governance," Wieser added.