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A Value Investor's Take on Twitter

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Like many, I am looking forward to Twitter's IPO, expected on Nov. 7, but not because I'll be participating. No, I'll just be watching, learning, and soaking it all in just like I did when Facebook (FB) went public in May 2012.

You better believe, however, that Twitter's first day of trading won't be the debacle that was Facebook's introduction to the markets. The New York Stock Exchange is trying to make sure of that with rigorous testing, more rigorous, I would suspect than the treatment that endured prior to its own "IPO".

What fascinates me about Twitter's introduction to the public markets is that there's so much that we don't know about the company. We know the "product", for lack of a better term, and that there are an estimated 218 million monthly active users, who generate more than 500 million tweets per day.

We know that 2012 revenue was $317 billion and that the company lost $79.4 million, according to the S-1 registration filing. We know that revenue is growing rapidly, more than doubling for the six-month period ended June 30 to $253.6 million.

We also know that the company ended June with $375 million in cash and short-term investments, and just $80 million in debt, in the form of long-term capital lease obligations. On the surface, that's not a bad looking balance sheet.

What we don't know is what Twitter is actually worth and whether the company's prospects are as great as many assume. The initial public offering price, with a range of $17-$20 a share, puts the company's value at somewhere between $10 and $12 billion. That is thought to be priced on the conservative side, and so there's likely to be frenzy on the first day of trading that will push the price much higher. At least, that's what history tells us may happen with such a high-profile issue coming to market.

Assuming a $12 billion valuation on Day 1, which may be very low, that would put Twitter's 12-month trailing price-to-sales ratio -- using June's trailing 12-month revenue figure -- at nearly 27, and that's without the pop in share price many expect. For comparison, Facebook trades at more than 20 times revenue, which still seems very high, at least to me.
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