For the first quarter, Twitter actually beat Wall Street estimates, posting break-even results on a per-share basis on revenue of $250.49 million. Advertising revenue surged 125% year over year to $226 million. The company said mobile advertising revenue was about 80% of total advertising revenue, while data licensing and other revenue totaled $24 million, an increase of 76% from a year earlier.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting San Francisco-based Twitter to lose 3 cents a share on $241.47 million in revenue.
The company reached 198 million mobile monthly active users (MAUs) during the quarter, up 31% year over year. Timeline views reached 157 billion for the first quarter of 2014, an increase of 15% from a year earlier, and advertising revenue per thousand timeline views reached $1.44 in the first quarter of 2014, an increase of 96%. Though the company surpassed 255 million MAUs, up 25% year over year, growth is slowing. In the fourth quarter of 2013, MAUs grew 30% year over year.
Slowing growth is a fact that Wall Street has been lamenting since the company went public in November 2013. Couple this with the lockup expiration that ended last week, and you have shares trading well below where they opened on their first trading day and near the initial public offering price of $26 a share.
Compare Twitter with Facebook, Twitter's most comparable U.S.-based competitor, and the two aren't even in the same league.
Facebook's revenue for the first quarter of 2014 totaled $2.5 billion, an increase of 72% from $1.46 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Revenue from advertising was $2.27 billion, an 82% increase from the same quarter last year. Mobile ad revenue represented about 59% of advertising revenue in the first quarter, up from about 30% of ad revenue the same time last year. Payments and other fees revenue arrived at $237 million.
Facebook had 802 million daily active users (DAUs) at the end of March 2014, an increase of 21% year over year. Mobile DAUs were 609 million, on average, for March, an increase of 43% from a year earlier. Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.28 billion as of March 31, an increase of 15% year over year. Mobile MAUs were 1.01 billion as of March 31, an increase of 34%.
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has promised to increase user engagement, making changes to the login process on mobile, making photos more prevalent and changing the look of people's profiles. Twitter has offered a look that's more similar to Facebook than the previous version of Twitter.
"We think of Twitter as this companion experience for what's happening in your world," Costolo said on the company's earnings conference call. He added that Twitter is already a mainstream platform, with users beginning to realize the value of the platform.
Despite a small percentage of Twitter's users making up a good chunk of tweets (over 3.3 billion tweets were sent during the Oscars alone), Twitter has been compared (unfairly or fairly) to Facebook, a service that has 1.28 billion MAUs, including 1.01 billion on mobile. It's going to take a long, long time for Twitter to get that level of reach.
But that doesn't mean Twitter isn't a good value here, as sentiment is so low while the second half of the year will soon get underway. The Relative Strength Index (RSI) on Twitter is near 20, a level indicating the asset is sharply oversold and is due for an upturn.
Comparatively speaking, the RSI for Facebook is around 45, while LinkedIn's RSI is also around 45. This indicates neither social networking name is as oversold as Twitter, which has seen its shares drop 47.2% year to date.
Just Monday, SunTrust analyst Robert Peck upgraded shares of Twitter to "buy" from "neutral," noting that as Twitter continues to grow it can better close the monetization gap on Facebook, even if it never gets as big as the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook (FB) or Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn (LNKD).
"With the stock's recent >50% correction from December highs, multiples have contracted significantly and Twitter now trades at 9x 2015 revenues and 41x 2015 EBITDA," Peck wrote in a note. "While this may still seem expensive at first glance, relative to its growth rates of 67%, and 130%, respectively, the stock trades at a discount to already reduced growth adjusted industry multiples."
Twitter has several things going for it that investors are overlooking, aside from the fact that the company, unlike other nascent technology companies, is profitable on a non-GAAP basis. The company could boost its ad load or expand into new businesses such as e-commerce (the Amazon (AMZN) announcement seems like it's just the start). Last year, Twitter bought MoPub, which will allow it to buy time as it changes around timeline views and engagement with an eye on growth in the second half.
Sentiment is so low on Twitter that anything the company does, including something as small as including a mute function, could be seen as a positive, not only for the company but for the stock as well.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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