Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report is getting ready to report its first quarter with Jack Dorsey back as its permanent CEO, and analysts are getting antsy as the social media platform struggles to grow its active user base.
Last quarter, the San Francisco-based company reported revenue of $502 million, up 61% from the same period a year earlier, with earnings of 7 cents per share. But the company failed to show any significant growth in its number of active users. Twitter only added 8 million monthly active users during the last quarter, bringing the company to a total of 316 million monthly active users.
Analysts are looking to hear any improvement from Twitter in its efforts to broaden its user base through new features such as its curated Moments.
According to Thomson Reuters, analysts, on average, expect second-quarter revenue of $559.6 million with earnings of 5 cents per share. In July, Twitter provided guidance of revenue between $545 million to $560 million and EBITDA between $110 million-$115 million. Earlier this month, the company said both revenue and EBITDA will fall on the high-end of (if not above) its July guidance.
Twitter recently announced that it was cutting 8% of its workforce, so that will likely come up in the earnings call. Management will also likely address Dorsey's ability to lead Twitter while at the same time taking public his "payments startup" Square.
"Ignore the quarter," said TheStreet's Jim Cramer, Portfolio Manager of the Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. "Jack just got in. Let's see how the new products do. That's what we are doing, and we own it for actionalertsplus.com. It just doesn't matter yet!"
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Here's what analysts are saying about Twitter.
Rob Sanderson, MKM Partners (Neutral, $31 PT)
As always, monthly active user growth will be a primary focus. We think expectations are low and could get a lift from Google search integration.
We believe it is too early for any noticeable monthly active user impact from the launch of Moments in Q4, but will be surveying users through the quarter.
This is pivotal for the company. The workforce reduction of 8% should lead to a margin boost beginning in Q4.
Youssef Squali, Cantor Fitzgerald (Buy, $50 PT)
With Twitter having already preannounced that revenue and adj. EBITDA would come in at or above the high-end of previously issued guidance, we expect the scrutiny to be on user growth and engagement in 3Q:15, and more importantly, on how these may evolve in 2016 given the recent launch of Moments (aka Project Lightning) in early October, and increased emphasis on faster innovation under the new leadership. With muted expectations for Twitter in 3Q:15 and 4Q:15, any positive commentary from new CEO could be a positive catalyst for the stock, in our view.
Strong ad revenue growth expected to continue. As social media spend continues to take share of integrated ad budgets, and as more marketers gain comfort with new platforms, we expect this growth to continue in 2016 and beyond.
We've modeled for monthly active users of 321M (+11.9% Y/Y), which reflects 5M net new users. While this is below the 8M new users reported in 2Q:15 (and 16M in 1Q:15), it is consistent with the lower visibility into monthly active user trends noted by management in recent months. We believe the new Moments launch and an upcoming integrated marketing campaign should be incremental to user growth in 4Q:15 and FY:16.
Michael Pachter, Wedbush (Neutral, $30 PT)
We expect revenue and adjusted EBITDA in-line with the preannouncement, but user growth is likely to disappoint. Had user growth been strong in Q3, Twitter would likely have said so; because user figures were omitted, we expect monthly active users to disappoint again, resulting in a post-results selloff.
While competitor Facebook has kept its users engaged through a suite of apps, Twitter relies primarily on its core offering. Neither "While You Were Away" nor the new "Moments" feature appear to be game changers for Twitter or its use case for the mass market, although management is likely to play up the potential of one or both features on the results call.
We do not expect the re-appointment of Jack Dorsey as CEO to result in dramatic change. While Mr. Dorsey may be a visionary, we believe the Board would have been better served appointing a CEO who could make a full-time commitment, its previously stated intention. Given that Mr. Dorsey is also the CEO of Square, a company that recently filed to go public, he does not fit that criterion. The appointment of an outsider as Executive Chairman was likely a wiser decision.
Brian Nowak, Morgan Stanley (Underweight, $24 PT)
We downgrade Twitter to underweight with a $24 PT as we see 1) limited user growth and declining engagement, 2) lack of material incremental advertiser demand, 3) an already high ad load and high ad pricing, and 4) rising mobile competition holding back earnings power.
By our math, Twitter's ad load is already 10 times higher than Facebook (FB) - Get Report when adjusted for time spent. This creates a potential ad load ceiling, as continued increases in ads/user has the potential to reduce click-through rates, lower advertiser ROI, and stifle user growth or, perhaps cause MAUs to fall. Engagement trends are moving against TWTR's advertising opportunity too, as a verage time spent per mobile user is falling...and at an accelerating rate (down 33% YoY in 3Q:15).
Twitter's more limited reach makes its ad units more expensive, as we estimate that Twitter mobile eCPMs are already a 13% premium to Facebook. In addition, some of our Twitter agency conversations remain tepid, with marketers flagging Twitter's limited scalability (aka reach) as a factor holding back ad budgets. The competition for users' time and advertisers' mobile and social ad dollars is rising, too, as other platforms -- like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube -- with stronger user and/or engagement growth continue to increase their push for ad dollars. We see this high pricing and rising competition adversely impacting Twitter's forward ad dollar growth and earnings power.
In our view, it is too early to say "Moments" is a success, and we question whether it may be too late to meaningfully change Twitter consumer perception and behavior. Fewer monthly active users means even less time to monetize.