Twitter Inc Estimates Trimmed After Earnings

Twitter Inc Estimates Trimmed After Earnings
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Twitter shares got pummeled on Tuesday after NASDAQ OMX’s website accidentally released the company’s earnings report early. The stock continued to tumble during regular trading hours today, falling as much as 5.23% to $40.06 per share.

Analysts too were disappointed with Twitter’s results, and many trimmed their estimates, with some reducing their price targets as well.

Canaccord Genuity cuts price target

One firm that reduced its price target for Twitter is Canaccord Genuity. Analysts Michael Graham and Austin Moldow lowered their target from $58 to $52 per share. They did maintain their Buy rating on the company, however.

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They pointed out that Twitter missed the midpoint of its guidance for revenue, coming in at $436 million, and cut its full year guidance by 4.5%. Nonetheless, they also note that Twitter did grow its revenue 74% year over year thanks to higher monetization rates and more users. They believe the current problems involving advertisers are only temporary.

On the plus side, Twitter posted adjusted EBITDA ($104 million) that did beat consensus estimates and guidance, and it appears as if monthly active user growth is “back on track” in the wake of the problem with the iOS 8 rollout. Also the micro-blogging platform reported monthly active user net adds that were in line with expectations, and Twitter’s “direct response capabilities” received a boost from the TellApart acquisition.

The TellApart acquisition is particularly important for Twitter in light of the fact that Twitter’s direct response initiative also came up short of expectations. Management cited lower direct response ad revenue as the main reason Twitter came up short on expectations for revenue.

The bad in Twitter’s earnings report

Twitter’s ad revenue of $388 million also missed Wall Street’s estimate of $407 million. Data licensing revenue was slightly higher than expected, coming in at $47.6 million.

The Canaccord Genuity team’s biggest problem was the lack of visibility on monthly active user growth for the second quarter and beyond. They believe this lack of visibility is at least partially to blame for the lack of enthusiasm for Twitter stock and that it will last until it’s fixed or investors become comfortable with Twitter’s growth being based on monetization improvements only.

The analysts also pointed out that ad engagement growth decelerated in the first quarter and that currency headwinds are expected to continue. The Canaccord Genuity analysts also think Twitter management is being a bit conservative with second quarter guidance, which suggests a 9.5% sequential growth rate for revenue, compared to the four-year average of about 22%.

Twitter earnings leaked early

Sterne Agee analysts Arvind Bhatia and Brett Strauser believe that the early leak of Twitter’s earnings results made Wall Street’s knee-jerk reaction even worse than it otherwise should have been. The reason they gave was because it may have caused investors to question security at the micro-blogging platform.

They also say investors’ confidence was shaken due to Twitter’s already-high valuation and the stock’s strong performance so far this year.

Twitter’s misses a surprise for some

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney was surprised that Twitter missed estimates because of the “upbeat” Investor Day in November, positive management comments on the company’s fourth quarter earnings per share and public conferences held throughout the quarter. He agrees with the Canaccord Genuity team that it looks as if Twitter management is being conservative in their guidance.

Mahaney also wants to see more visibility into advertiser and consumer demand and added that management is again going to have to address concerns about their credibility. He remains concerned about whether Twitter’s product changes will be able to speed up its user and engagement metrics. Also his channel checks and surveys don’t provide “convincing” evidence that many advertisers will spend a “substantial” amount of ad dollars on Twitter.

Further, he is still concerned that the micro-blogging platform’s lack of “real-time commercial intent” like Google and “detailed, authenticated profiles” like Facebook will limit its growth potential. The RBC analyst has a Sector Perform rating on Twitter.

Twitter estimates cut

Graham and Moldow reduced their second quarter earnings per share estimate from 39 cents to 30 cents per share. For the full year, their estimate falls from 78 cents per share.

Bhatia and Strauser also reduced their estimates for Twitter. Their full year revenue estimate falls from $2.32 billion to $2.22 billion, and their adjusted EBITDA estimate falls from $582.9 million to $523 million.

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