Saturday, 5 October 2013

Questor share tip: Twitter's leaden numbers -

In percentage terms, revenue rose 1,021% between 2010 and the end of 2012. Expenses rose 311.5%.

The problem for twitter is that costs are currently outstripping revenue growth.

The company lost $67.3 million in 2010 and $79.4 million in 2012. So far in 2013 it has lost $69.3 million, which is worse than the start of last year.

The quarterly trading doesn't paint a pretty picture either. Losses in the three months ended June 30, jumped to $42.2m, from a loss of $27m in the three months ended March 31. Research and development and marketing spend increased by $40m, up to $178m, while group revenue only increased by $25m, to $139m.

Advertising revenue is the key here. It has rocketed to $269m in 2012, from $77.7m in 2011, and represents 85pc of total revenue.

However, growth in advertising revenue is still not that impressive this year, it was largely flat over the first quarter ended March 31, and increased by 20pc to $121m, in the three months ended June 30.

Advertising revenue growth has been left behind by costs over the first six months. Research and development costs are up 59pc to $64.3m, and marketing costs have risen 57pc to $28.8m, during the first six months ended June 30

Cash on the balance sheet

The balance sheet is interesting. Estimated shareholder equity will be $717m, after the IPO, of which $375m, or just over half, is backed by cash or highly secure short term investments, there is also no debt.

Comparable companies

Twitter's average revenue per user in the latest quarter was 64 cents based on its monthly active users and $139.3 million in sales. That's less than half Facebook's $1.60 average revenue per monthly user.

Comparable companies like Facebook and LinkedIn both reported encouraging signs recently. Facebook announced a profit for the second quarter of 2013, reversing a loss in the comparable period. Facebook shares at around $44, are now well above the $38 float price, having slumped to lows around $17 last year.

One challenge lies in expanding the site's user base. In June, Twitter had 218 million monthly users, up 44 percent from the year earlier. That was slower than its 78 percent growth the prior year.

Questor on twitter

Twitter's market has incredibly low barriers to entry. The company's meteoric rise from the first tweet in March 21 2006 shows how quickly technology companies can start from almost nothing.

That means that all the investment in brand and technology could be for nothing, or at the very least it will be costly to defend against a new upstart.

Technology companies can fall just as quickly. The technology space is littered with calamities: Bebo, the social network once valued at $850m by AOL, was recently sold for $1m.

This raises the very real spectre of a permanent loss of capital for investors, given the as yet unproven ability to generate profits.

Don't be distracted by rapid revenue growth, but instead focus on after tax profits that can be returned to shareholders.

Twitter shares are therefore not for income investors or widows and orphans. That said, If it can convince advertisers it is the de facto platform for reaching people on mobile devices the cash is sure to follow. So, those who can take the risk, and can stomach the likely roller coaster share price ride, might just enjoy some good returns.

On these numbers Questor is still happy to let this one fly by, avoid.

1 comment:

  1. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can watch the best virtual strippers on my desktop.