Commentary

Twitter Stock Tumbles After Weak Earnings

Twitter took it on the chin again this week, as its stock price tumbled following a weak earnings report on Tuesday, suggesting that co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s attempts to revive the social network’s fortunes by taking it mainstream are floundering.

During after-hours trading, Twitter’s stock price fell from $18.44 at 4 p.m. on Tuesday to $16.45 at 8 p.m., for an 11% drop. The drop reverses a trend of slow but steady increases over the last few months, which boosted the stock price from a recent low of $14.02 in early June. It’s also a far cry from Twitter’s one-year peak of $31.34 in October of last year.

The reason for the after-hours plunge was not far to find: on Tuesday afternoon Twitter announced disappointing revenue growth and tepid growth in active users for the second quarter and released forecasts indicating growth will slow even more in the third.

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According to Twitter, total revenues rose 20% to $602 million, about 1% below analysts’ expectations of $607 million. That marks the eighth quarter where revenue growth has declined in percentage terms, compared with 35% in the first quarter of this year and 45% in the last quarter of last year. Looking ahead, the company projects that total revenues will fall in a range between $590 million and $610 million in the third quarter of 2016, well below analysts’ previous forecasts of $678 million.

Meanwhile, the number of Twitter’s average monthly users increased 1% from 310 million in the first quarter to 313 million in the second, modestly outpacing analyst forecasts of two million new users. Even more troubling, Twitter’s user numbers have essentially flattened out over the last year, increasing just 2.9% from 304 million in the second quarter of 2015.

All this could be interpreted as evidence that Twitter has finally hit the upper limits of its growth potential, far short of the billion-plus user base that has made Facebook a media behemoth able to spar with the likes of Google and Apple on even terms. Worse still, Twitter appears to be mired in unprofitability, with a net loss of $107 million in the second quarter, down somewhat from $137 million in the same quarter last year.

Twitter is working hard to expand its reach by recruiting new users while fostering engagement by existing ones, although it’s not clear whether, or when, these efforts will bear fruit. Earlier this week, the company announced a new marketing campaign positioning itself as a source of breaking news and forum for live commentary, to correct a widespread perception of it as a personal social network connecting friends and family.

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