Twitter takes hit as user growth disappoints

Even more disconcerting, in the eyes of some analysts, was that the typical amount of time people spent checking out timelines at Twitter actually dropped

SHARES UP. Twitter shares have risen to US$66.32 since December. File photo by Fred Tanneau/AFP

SAN FRANCISCO, USA – Twitter got a reality check Wednesday, February 5, as the high-flying messaging company reported modest user growth during a quarter in which it lost $511 million.

Even more disconcerting, in the eyes of some analysts, was that the typical amount of time people spent checking out timelines at Twitter actually dropped.

“If you don’t have an engaged user base, you don’t have a business,” Forrester analyst Nate Elliott told Agence Frnace-Presse.

“They have got to do better on users, that is the entire story.”

Twitter makes money from ads in the form of “promoted tweets” in timelines, and it need strong growth to keep its momentum.

Twitter shares skidded more than 11% to $58.50 in after-market trades that followed its first quarterly earnings release since its stock market debut last year.

The results showed revenues in the quarter that ended December 31 doubled from a year ago to a better-than-expected $242.6 million.

But, investors seemed unhappy that the average number of monthly users had climbed just 30% to 241 million when compared to the same quarter a year earlier.

The number of worldwide users was up just nine million from the figure of 232 million when Twitter went public last November, suggesting only modest growth at a time when investors were looking for a surge.

In its first earnings report as a public company, Twitter said the loss for the year widened to $645 million from $79 million in 2012 even as revenues more than doubled to $664 million for the full year.

The San Francisco-based firm said advertising brought in $220 million in the quarter, an increase of 121% year-over-year, with mobile accounting for more than 75% of total.

Data licensing and other revenue totaled $23 million. International revenue jumped 200% to $66 million, an increase of 200% to make up 27% of all revenues.

Shares in Twitter soared from the offering price last November of $26, and analysts say that to sustain that momentum Twitter must prove it can grow and move toward profitability.

“Twitter finished a great year with our strongest financial quarter to date,” said chief executive Dick Costolo said in the earnings release.

“We are the only platform that is public, real-time, conversational and widely distributed and I’m excited by the number of initiatives we have underway to further build upon the Twitter experience.”

Twitter has fast become engrained in popular culture but must still convince investors of its business model.

Twitter is expected to be able to reach profitability over time by delivering ads in the form of promoted tweets, and from its data analytics.

“The problem is that there are some serious caveats for growth ahead and user metrics,” Jon Ogg of website 24/7 Wall Street wrote in a post about the earnings.

“Twitter’s stock is so far getting a reality check.” – Rappler.com