Investors can’t seem to decide if Twitter is roadkill on the Information Superhighway or a scrappy upstart carving out a niche in the social media landscape dominated by its much larger rival Facebook.
For now, the naysayers are prevailing. Shares of Twitter plummeted today after the micro-blogging site reported disappointing quarterly earnings and gave lackluster earnings guidance. They closed Thursday at $30.75, a decline of 21 percent. They are trading roughly $5 above the IPO price.
Profits Disappoint, Outlook Uncertain
Net income for the San Franciso-based company was $36.5 million, or 5 cents per share, compared with $789.2 million, or $1.02, a year earlier. Revenue rose 9 percent to $824 million, the smallest increase since 2017. Excluding one-time items, Twitter earned 14 cents. On that basis, analysts had expected a per-share profit of 20 cents on revenue of $874.03.
The company expects the problems it had with the ad business in the summer to linger into the current quarter. Revenue during that period will be between $940 million and $1.01 billion, well under the $1.05 billion analysts had expected.
Growing Expenses Fueled By Hiring Boon
Weaker-than-expected performance in July and August hurt Twitter along with malfunctions in its advertising software that helps marketers target consumers.
The company also continues to invest in its company and add employees, driving total costs and expenses up by 17 percent to $780 million.
“Unfortunately, we had some missteps,” Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey told analysts during an earnings conference call. “I have a lot more confidence in our abilities and our team today than looking back just two years ago. We have a lot more agility.”
Crackdown on Abuse Continues
The company is continuing its crackdown on abusive Tweets. Twitter also continues to its machine-learning modes to provide more relevant content to their Home timelines. During the quarter, Twitter also began experimenting with allowing users to follow topics.
Dorsey, a company co-founder, returned as Chief Executive in 2015, less than a decade after he was fired from the job. In the intervening years, Dorsey founded the payments processor Square. He currently splits his time between the two companies in a highly unusual arrangement.
Wall Street analysts have widely praised Dorsey’s management of both companies. However, he may have to give up one of his jobs if Twitter continues to struggle. Over the past five years, shares of Twitter have dropped nearly 40 percent. Square shares have zoomed approximately 385 percent during that same time. The payment processor is due to report earnings on Nov. 6.
CFRA analyst Scott Kessler expects Dorsey, who is a billionaire, to give up one of his jobs in 2019, a prediction that he has made before.
“These companies are becoming so big and so far-flung in many respects that they do require more CEO attention than he’s probably able to afford,” Kessler told Yahoo Finance last year. “And at both companies, the people who were his No. 2 executives have left: Sarah Friar [Square CFO who left to be CEO of Nextdoor] and Anthony Noto [Twitter COO who left to be CEO of SoFi].”