Twitter Inc Earnings Preview: User Growth Still A Concern

Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) is scheduled to release its next earnings report on July 29 after closing bell. Slowing user growth continues to be a concern for some analysts, although some have dismissed it. Sterne Agee analysts see upside to monetization and revenue / EBITDA, although data points suggesting slowing user growth keep them on the sidelines.

Twitter Inc Earnings Preview: User Growth Still A Concern

Strength expected in Twitter’s results

In a report dated July 24, 2014, analysts Arvind Bhatia and Brett Strauser said Twitter has likely benefited from a number of changes. The micro-blogging platform recently made the sign-up process easier and began focusing more on rich media. The result is improvements in user experience. In addition, they note that Twitter significantly benefited from the recent FIFA World Cup in Brazil, during which the company racked up new tweet records.

The Sterne Agee team said these items will probably “incrementally enhanced” the company’s long term positioning, and they expect strong upside to its revenue / EBITDA and monetization in next week’s earnings report. The one area of concern they have is third-party data that suggest near-term user growth has meaningfully slowed down. As a result, they reiterated their Neutral rating on Twitter.

What to look for in Twitter’s earnings report

The analysts name several things investors should look for in Twitter’s report. First on the agenda is reach. They say third-party data suggests that the micro-blogging platform saw just 5 million quarter over quarter growth, which is lower than estimates of 11 million to 14 million. The Sterne Agee team wants to see a 4% sequential increase in monthly active users to 266 million. They’re looking for 60 million monthly active users in the U.S. and 206 million international monthly active users.

They note that reports have suggested that Twitter management will add new metrics about user growth and engagement, both on and off the company’s platform. If the reports are true, these user metrics are expected to show that Twitter is going mainstream.

Engagement and monetization at Twitter

The Sterne Agee team expects a 5% sequential increase in total timeline views, bringing them to 164.4 billion and a .6% sequential increase in timeline views per monthly active user, bringing it to 618. Within those engagement numbers, they’re expecting a .5% increase each in the U.S. and internationally. It’s a significantly slowdown from the first quarter’s 6% sequential growth in the U.S. and 2% decline internationally.

In terms of monetization, the analysts expect Twitter to surpass the average revenue estimate of $283 million and EBITDA estimate of $32.7 million. They are actually estimating $285 million in revenue and $38 million in EBITDA. They’re expecting $1.57 in advertising revenue per thousand timeline views, which would be a 9% quarter over quarter increase. They expect $258 million in revenue and $27 million in data licensing revenue.