Twitter Inc (TWTR) Tumbles As Analysts React To Earnings

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Twitter shares fell by as much as 5.91% to $29.45 per share during regular trading hours today before bouncing and recovering part of the way, but last night’s earnings report was polarizing among analysts. Just like with Apple’s earnings report, we’ve got a mixed bag in analyst reports. Most firms cut their price targets for the company, but a few raised their targets.

Twitter disappoints in user growth, revenue guide

As has been the case in the last several quarters, Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) surprised to the positive on earnings and revenue but disappointed on user growth. Revenue for the third quarter was $569 million, while earnings were 10 cents per share—double the 5 cent per share estimate.

The problem was user growth, as Twitter added only about 4 million users to end the quarter with 320 million, including SMS users. Analysts had wanted to see 5 million to 7 million users added. Excluding SMS users, Twitter had 307 million active users, which was slightly higher than what investors had been looking for.

Another problem area for Twitter was its fourth quarter guidance, which was revenue of $695 million to $710 million for the fourth quarter. Wall Street was hoping for revenue of $742 million. The microblogging company guided for adjusted EBITDA of between $155 million and $175 million, again missing the consensus estimate at $199 million.

Baird trims Twitter’s price target

As expected, we have a massive stack of analyst reports to choose from, with some bearish and some bullish. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian and his team trimmed their price target for Twitter from $35 to $32 per share. He thinks the company’s guide could end up being conservative, but because last night’s earnings report did not show “signs of a turning point in core usage trends,” he maintained his Neutral rating on the stock.

He says Twitter is still a “show-me” story although he is encouraged by the pace of the company’s improvements to its platform. Management is simplifying the platform with the goal of attracting more users and in three main apps: Twitter, Vine and Periscope. However, they’re going to have to show some results in order to convince advertisers to shift more of their budgets over to the platform.

One thing he did like in last night’s earnings report was the differentiation between Twitter’s overall growth versus Network growth, which improves transparency. The microblogging platform’s “owned and operated” revenues increased 42% year over year and 7% sequentially while Network growth was more than 10 times compared to last year and 82% quarter over quarter. Network includes MPub, Audience Network, TellApart and TapCommerce.

Barclays, RBC, Pacific Crest, Goldman cut Twitter targets too

Barclays analyst Paul Vogel also cut his price target for Twitter, pushing it down from $40 to $33 per share. He maintained his Equal Weight rating on the stock. He called last night’s report “modestly better” but was disappointed in management’s guidance. He does actually think Dorsey has already improved the focus at Twitter, however, although he remains on the sidelines until he sees “reasons for optimism,” signs of improvements in user growth, and more clarity on revenue growth for next year.

Pacific Crest analysts Evan Wilson and Tyler Parker trimmed their target for Twitter from $40 to $36 per share and maintained their Overweight rating on the stock. They note that typically it takes about 90 days for a new CEO to inspire confidence in investors and convince them to believe in a “new direction.” Dorsey has only been at the helm on a permanent basis for 17 days. Although they think it will be hard to fix the user growth problems, they’re still holding their “hope trade.”

Some other analysts who cut their targets for Twitter include RBC Capital analysts, who trimmed their target from $41 to $34 per share. Also Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry cut his target from $40 to $44 per share and continues to rate it as a Buy. Nomura analysts Anthony DiClemente and Kevin Rippey trimmed their target from $33 to $30 per share and maintained their Neutral rating, while Wells Fargo analysts cut their valuation range from between $33 and $35 per share to a range of $32 to $34 per share..

Perhaps the firm that is the most bearish on Twitter is Morgan Stanley, which has an Underweight rating and trimmed its price target from $24 to $22 per share.

Twitter upgraded by Stifel

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Stifel analyst Scott Devitt, who upgraded Twitter from Hold to Buy following last night’s earnings report. He has set a price target of $34 per share. He described himself and his team as “long-time critics” of the microblogging platform—until last night’s earnings report.

They think Jack Dorsey is the right person to turn things around at the company and that hiring him was the “first step toward an improved product and repaired franchise.” Devitt believes Twitter’s initiatives to drive growth are already working in spite of the third quarter’s lackluster user growth. He noted that in only three weeks since being named permanent CEO, he has already simplified the company’s product growth by restoring its focus; started restructuring; recruited ex-Google executive Omid Kordestani as chairman; and donated a third of his Twitter shares to an employee pool to raise morale there.

The Stifel team is encouraged by the new Moments feature and expects Dorsey to make more “game-changing launches” in the next several months.

Macquarie ups Twitter price target

Analyst Ben Schachter at Macquarie Research continues to rate Twitter at Neutral but raised his price target slightly from $34 to $36 per share. He likes that the product improvements there are improving and that video ads are driving growth in revenue. Other positives he mentioned were “decent” control on operating expenditures and the fact that Twitter now has over 100,000 SMB advertisers, although he said the company needs to climb into the millions. He also liked the increase clarity on revenue sources.

On the negative side, he said the company’s O&O revenue growth is “decelerating meaningfully” and that he sees rising pressure on gross margins. Also user growth remains weak, and the timeline for improvements in active users is unclear. He also doesn’t like that Twitter’s network business is driving more revenue growth.

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