- Twitter is slated to report Q4 2015 earnings on 10 Feb 2016.
- Twitter issued weak fourth-quarter guidance which it could easily exceed.
- Twitter's user growth problem, however, is not likely to go away soon.
- Is Twitter stock a worthwhile investment at this point?
Leading microblogging site Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is slated to report Q4 2015 earnings on 10 Feb 2016 after markets close. During its third quarter earnings call, Twitter said that it expects fourth-quarter revenue in the range of $695M-$710M, the mid-point of which represents 46.7% Y/Y growth. This is a pretty big slowdown from the third quarter when the company posted year-over-year revenue growth of 58%. Twitter said that it expects to report non-GAAP net income of $0.10 per share, with GAAP net income of -$0.20.
Meanwhile, Wall Street expects Twitter to report revenue of $715.03M, with non-GAAP EPS of $0.12. It’s important to note that both projections by the Street are significantly higher than Twitter’s estimates.
Twitter has managed to exceed consensus earnings estimates in all four of the preceding four consecutive quarters.
Twitter Earnings Surprise History
Twitter stands a good chance of exceeding its own weak guidance, and even Wall Street estimates, when it reports its fourth quarter earnings. Even by hitting the mid-point of its revenue guidance, Twitter will have posted growth in the mid-40s percentage range. Though that's still lower than the 97% growth it posted in Q4 2014, or the 57% growth in Q3 2015, it's still healthy.
Investors will be more interested in seeing how Twitter’s advertising revenue will compare to Facebook’s. In its most recent earnings call, Facebook reported that its ad revenue grew 57%, to $5.6B, an improvement over the previous quarter when it grew 45%. Twitter posted an impressive ad revenue growth of 60% during Q3 2015, to $513M. Investors have become increasingly worried that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has grown its ad revenue at the expense of Twitter and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD). Facebook’s far superior MAUs (Monthly Active Users) of 1.5B+ places it at an advantage when competing for marketing dollars with a company like Twitter, with just 320M MAUs.
However, perhaps the biggest focal point of the earnings call will be Twitter’s user growth, especially domestic user growth. Twitter stock got badly hammered after the company’s third-quarter earnings call, after the company revealed that its domestic users had remained flat quarter-over-quarter, with an increase of just 4 million international users compared to Q3 2014. That marked the company’s worst MAU growth in its public life.
Twitter finished the third quarter with 66 million U.S. users and 254 million international users. The company’s U.S. users, however, contributed 65% of Twitter’s top line, with international users contributing just 35%. With the average U.S. user bringing in more than seven times as much revenue as international users for Twitter, investors are worried, and rightly so, that a slowdown in domestic MAUs could start taking a toll on Twitter’s growth.
Twitter Monetizing Logged Out Users
Twitter recently moved to monetize its gazillion logged out users in an attempt to solve its user growth problem. The company estimates that logged out users are about 500M in number, much more than logged-in users. Twitter will now display promoted tweets, the company’s version of native advertising, to logged out users. Twitter will use information such as the kind of tweets these logged out users consume, when targeting them with relevant ads.
Twitter rolled out the new program only in the U.S., Japan, the U.K and Australia during the holiday season. Logged-out users in these geographical locations saw promoted tweets as well as videos and expanded pages about individual tweets. Twitter’s homepage will, however, remain unaffected by these promoted tweets.
The new program is unlikely to have a significant impact on Twitter’s upcoming report because it was only available during the last few weeks of the quarter. Investors will, however, no doubt be eager to hear from the company how the program is progressing and whether it’s showing any promise.
Twitter Earnings Preview Investor Takeaway
Given the fact that Twitter has to once again climb a wall of worry regarding slowing user growth in its lucrative North American market, the upcoming earnings call is shaping up to be another tough one for the company and its investors. Twitter stock is down 26.9% YTD and 58.4% over the past 12 months primarily due to these user growth concerns. Much of the bad news appears to be already baked into the shares which probably limits further downside. But at the same time, there are no solid catalysts that could propel the stock forward, barring the occasional buyout rumors. This implies that Twitter stock could remain dead money for a couple more quarters, maybe until the company demonstrates that it’s making good progress monetizing logged out users.