Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) shares tumbled today as analysts from at least two firms handed out a fresh pair of downgrades. The general theme continues to be valuation, as a growing list of analysts are concerned about how quickly the stock skyrocketed in a matter of days, fueled by refreshed rumors about an impending buyout. Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) shares slipped by about 3% during regular trading hours today, falling as low as $22.44.
Unsurprisingly, the fresh speculations have lit a fire in the options market as investors look for ways to ride any buyout that might happen—on the off chance that this time is different and an announcement really will be made.
Twitter downgraded by Mizuho
In a report dated September 28, Mizuho Securities analyst Neil Doshi said he downgraded Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) from Neutral to Underperform but left his price target at $15 per share. He noted that the stock has soared by about 45% since the company’s second quarter earnings report, driven by the rumors and speculations that it is about to be bought out.
Doshi agrees with the vast majority of analysts and their skepticism about the reports. Thus far the only contrarian call on this appears to be Pivotal’s Brian Wieser, who raised his price target because he thinks there will be a deal this time. Among the possible suitors that have been named in this latest round of takeover rumors are Salesforce and Walt Disney, although Alphabet and Microsoft have been named in the past. He sees Salesforce and Alphabet as being possible acquirers, but even with them, he has some “reservations” and believes investors should see a Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) as a negative for both of them.
No comparison with LinkedIn
The analyst notes that the micro-blogging platform’s revenue is a third of what it was one year ago, and it’s seeing slower growth than most of its peers are seeing. In fact, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR)’s ad revenue growth is only a little better than Yahoo’s, he adds.
As a result, he believes Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) shares are expensive where they’re trading.
He notes that many people are comparing the company with LinkedIn and its acquisition by Microsoft, but he points out that LinkedIn’s member base is bigger and growing faster, and it enjoys “deep moats around its core recruiting business.” Further, the social network has successfully diversified into advertising and other businesses. Doshi does not believe Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) deserves the valuation LinkedIn received, which was about 20 times forward EV/ EBITDA.
Loop Capital downgrades Twitter too
Loop Capital analyst Blake Harper also downgraded Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), moving from Hold to Sell but maintaining his $18 price target. While Doshi doesn’t seem to think the company will ever get an offer, Harper thinks it might do so “eventually” but believes it’s doubtful that it will secure a “meaningful premium” from its current share price. As a result, he says the downside risk if a deal is announced but falls through is greater. He also warns that another disappointing earnings report could be on the way due to “the swift manner in which Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) began shopping itself.”
Harper feels that Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) just has too much baggage, despite the benefits it might bring to a suitor.
Options market picking up on Twitter
Susquehanna analyst Christopher Jacobson reported today that he’s observed a significant pickup in options activity for Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) due to the increase in takeover speculations. In three sessions, the micro-blogging network has averaged more than 680,000 contracts changing hands per day. In particular, he highlighted one of the biggest options trades one Tuesday because of how it pertains to possible sentiment.
According to Jacobson, one investor purchased 10,000 January 20 puts and sold 10,000 January 29 calls in a risk reversal play at 60 cents apiece, versus buying 500,000 shares of Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) stock at a delta neutral standing. The derivatives strategist explains that this investor seems to be picking up protection under $20 but also implying the possibility of upside above $29 as limited.
He added that a recurring trend he has been seeing is investors selling near-term downside puts to finance December puts, which possibly protects them through December while they speculate that near-term downside is not as likely.