Instagram Now Valued at $35 Billion, Analyst Says Could the photo-sharing tool be Zuckerberg's greatest 'steal'?

By Taylor Lorenz

entrepreneur daily

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

Bloomua | Shutterstock.com

Instagram is a $35 billion business, according to Citi analyst Mark May.

Mark Zuckerberg famously paid a now seemingly paltry sum of $1 billion for the service back in April 2012.

Last week, Instagram announced that it had surpassed Twitter in terms of users, topping out at over 300 million. Its users are also an average of ~1.8x more engaged than Twitter.

The $35 billion valuation is significantly higher than the $19 billion Citi had previously estimated. Instagram has outperformed even its most conservative assumptions around user growth and monetization.

Citi has consequentially increased its price target for Facebook from to $91 from $86.

Citi got its $35 billion valuation based on its estimates of future earnings for Instagram.

While Instagram's current financial contribution to Facebook is small, Citi believes it has the potential to eventually rake in tons of money by monetizing its audience and data assets. The service is quickly gaining steam with advertisers and will eventually contribute more than "$2 billion in high- margin revenue at current user and engagement levels if fully monetized," says May in a note to clients.

May predicts 2015 will be the year that revenue streams off Facebook (e.g., Instagram, ad network/tech, WhatsApp, etc.) truly take hold.

Instagram launched advertising in the U.S. in late 2013 and was immediately able to bring in high profile clients such as Adidas, Ben & Jerry's, Burberry, General Electric, Levi's, Lexus, Macy's, Michael Kors, PayPal, and Starwood.

The service built out the department further in 2013 by adding deeper analytics tools and advertising insights for page admins and advertisers to help make their campaigns more affective including the ability to leverage an Instagram users' Facebook data for ad targeting

Instagram also brought their advertising products overseas in 2014, launching campaigns for brands in Canada, the UK, and Australia.

In October, Instagram rolled out video ads from a select group of four launch partners.

Citi estimates Instagram's ad products could generate up to $2.7 billion in revenue in 2015.

If Instagram delivers, then it's going to make Zuckerberg's $1 billion purchase of Instagram look like the greatest steal in business history.

Taylor Lorenz is a reporter at Business Insider covering startups and tech culture.

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