Twitter Inc (TWTR) Price Target Raised But Live Events Must Be “Big”

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Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) shares bounced on Thursday after one firm boosted its price target, although the firm’s analysts emphasized that more is needed and that the company remains “a story with great unmet potential.”  Also one of the company’s cofounders said it should consider selling itself.

Twitter price target to $18.50

In a report dated September 1, analyst Rob Sanderson raised his price target for Twitter stock from $14 to $18.50 per share but maintained his Neutral rating. Despite his significant price target increase, he’s concerned that time could be running out and sees the new Live Events feature as a “make-or-break” strategy. He raised his target because he’s now using a higher multiple based on “the potential behind Live streaming deals.”

Twitter is essentially betting its future on live streaming with several major deals to stream big events and other content online, such as Thursday night NFL football, Wimbledon, Bloomberg, the Republican and Democrat National Conventions and more. For now, these deals only hold potential for Twitter, as the micro-blogging platform has much to prove.

Can Twitter find success with Live Events?

Sanderson estimates that Live Events must contribute $1.2 billion in incremental net revenue by 2019 in order to justify the risk/ reward of it. Only then would he become more bullish on Twitter stock. He wants to see a path toward 30% per year in returns through the turnaround phase in order to accept the stock’s high risk premium.

He adds that in order to reach his return threshold, Twitter would need a “fairly hefty” multiple of 30 times forward non-GAAP earnings. If Live Events does end up taking hold and driving a “meaningful” user engagement rebound, then the multiple would be justified, he believes.

The good, the bad and the ugly for Twitter

The MKM analyst believes that in order for Twitter to take hold of a sustainable recovery, it must be able to leverage its premium live content to sell bundled ad deals all across its network. He also believes it must qualify for advertisers’ online video budgets and see a rebound in its Direct Response ad segment. He also said Twitter must be able to deliver on its measurement initiatives and increase user engagement, retention and growth.

He highlighted several continuing concerns as well, including the fact that user growth has stalled at 1% to 2% for the U.S. and 3% to 4% internationally. Further, he said Twitter has started having problems justifying the premium it places on its monetization, and competition continues to rise, not only from existing competitors but from new ones as well.

He is also concerned that the measurement initiatives with Google and DoubleClick are taking longer than most had been expecting and noted that advertiser participation has stalled. Further, management has not succeeded in improving engagement, retention or user growth.

TWTR should consider selling itself: Williams

On the flip side, Twitter could just throw in the towel on going it alone. Twitter cofounder Evan Williams told Bloomberg in an interview on Wednesday that the company should look at selling itself. He still sits on the company’s board, but he now heads up the blog-hosting platform Medium. In the interview with Bloomberg, he emphasized that Twitter is “in a strong position now” but that in his capacity as a member of the board, he has to “consider the right options.”

There’s been plenty of speculation that the micro-blogging platform will become an acquisition target off and on, especially following Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn. Nothing beyond rumors has surfaced yet, however.

Following Williams’ comments, Twitter stock jumped by about 6%, which was the biggest upward move in two weeks. After shooting upward on Wednesday, the stock continued to climb on Thursday, briefly passing $20 per share before retreating a bit. As of 12:11 p.m., the stock was up 1.41% at $19.48

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