The microblogging platform has made strides in recent months to improve its otherwise uncertain future, but that may not be enough to help Twitter truly recover, said Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. analyst James Cakmak. With a turnaround story not a given, Cakmak believes a Twitter takeout here would be the "best case and the most likely scenario" after the company was very publicly in play in the fall of 2016.
On Tuesday, shares of Twitter were up 3% to $25.41, helped by a bullish note from JPMorgan analysts on Monday that cited the company as one of its top picks for 2018. The stock has climbed 56% so far this year vs. the Nasdaq's gain of 29%. Last week, Twitter's stock also surged on takeover speculation after Goldman Sachs Group (GS - Get Report) CEO Lloyd Blankfein tweeted a photo of him and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
Cakmak specifically called out Walt Disney Co. (DIS - Get Report) , Microsoft Inc. (MSFT - Get Report) or even Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN - Get Report) as potential acquirers, citing their ability to digest Twitter's substantial price tag, which could likely fall between $20 billion and $25 billion. Its current market cap stands at $18.6 billion.
Amazon has been looking to broaden its reach into media and advertising, as it continues to build an even bigger presence in Hollywood and ramps up its marketing spend and tools for brands. The internet giant could easily fold Twitter into its business, especially alongside its video gaming site Twitch Interactive Inc., and could be integrated with Amazon's line of voice-activated Echo devices. Microsoft might employ a similar strategy if it were to acquire Twitter by adding Twitter news alerts and other information as a skill to its Cortana digital assistant, Cakmak said.
"With respect to Disney, it even makes more sense today as Fox makes its way into the fold and ESPN -- which is struggling -- look to start streaming next year," Cakmak explained in a Tuesday note. "Sports are the primary places where advertisers recognize the value of live."
Twitter is moreover no stranger to sports. The company teamed up with the National Football League to stream Thursday Night Football on the site before losing that contract to Amazon, as part of CEO Dorsey's larger strategy to become a hub for live video.
Twitter has made numerous efforts to try to refocus and strengthen its business by pursuing things such as live video and redesigning the app to retain users. By and large, that has paid off for them, as the company's latest quarterly results showed "new-found momentum" in daily active users and profitability, Cakmak noted.
On Monday, the company also doubled down on its efforts to curtail hate and harassment on the platform, by rolling out a series of updated policies and banning or suspending at least 20 accounts connected to alt-right and nationalist groups. That move likely generated some positive momentum for Twitter's stock, as many Wall Street investors have cited pervasive harassment on the platform as a risk to the company's future value and takeover prospects.
Today, we are starting to enforce updates to the Twitter Rules and media policy to reduce hateful conduct and abusive behavior https://t.co/yNHAMFcVwG— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) December 18, 2017
Still, Cakmak believes the company will continue to struggle in its ability to effectively monetize and attract new users, which could make a takeover a more likely option in the future.
"From an investor standpoint, the real future application potential in the stock is more a function of a take out, and less about a recovery on an independent basis," Cakmak said. "Of course, shares can benefit over the near-term from easier [year-over-year comparisons] and rock-bottom Street expectations. It is the longer-term trajectory we aim for investors to digest here."
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