Sat, Nov 09, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Analysts wary despite Twitter rush

LONG-TERM FOCUS:As with Facebook’s opening-day failure, analysts said the importance of trading figures is determined by how Twitter performs in the long run

AFP, NEW YORK

Protesters with signs gather at the entrance to Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, on Thursday. The protest took place after Twitter Inc’s IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York. The protest was against corporate tax breaks and high housing costs, which the protesters blame on the social media company.

Photo: Reuters

Twitter made a spectacular Wall Street debut yesterday, but analysts warned of challenges ahead for the popular messaging service vying to become the next fixture for global Internet users.

The company’s shares shot up by more than 90 percent in early trade to a peak of just more than US$50. In the end, the stock closed with a one-day gain of 73 percent at US$44.90, from the initial public offering (IPO) price of US$26.

However, analysts cautioned that the success of the IPO was just a first step for Twitter, which must now justify its hefty valuation.

“Kudos to Twitter for orchestrating a highly successful IPO,” Lou Kerner of the Social Internet Fund said. “However, as Facebook showed, an IPO success, or disaster in Facebook’s case, is really just noise in the long term. Twitter’s success as a stock is going to be based on how the company performs.”

Kerner said Twitter “needs to perform extraordinarily well, in terms of user growth, user engagement and user monetization to justify its price.”

Appropriately, #TwitterIPO was among the top trending topics on the social network for much of the day.

Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo attended the opening on the New York Stock Exchange and said the company has a lot of work ahead.

Asked about Twitter’s growth potential, Costolo said “it’s all about making it very simple and easy for new users to come to the platform ... we all have examples of why this service can be useful to everyone on the planet.”

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali was upbeat about the company, saying in a note to clients that: “Twitter is based on a one-to-all, all-the-time broadcast distribution model and as such, fulfills an unmet need.”

“This model is highly complementary to traditional media outlets [especially TV] and fulfills the need for up-to-the-minute, trending information in real time,” it said.

However, Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research issued a “sell” recommendation after the opening, saying Twitter “is simply too expensive” after the hefty opening gains with “nearly the same valuation as CBS [Broadcasting Inc] ... or even Yahoo [Inc].”

Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University, said the “investor mania” around Twitter is not an indication of success.

“The fundamental question is how much people have to say on Twitter,” he said. “We know there are some people who are social and want to talk all the time, but you can’t make a business model on those people.”

Chiagouris added that: “Large corporations with hundreds of millions of dollars have not put substantial sums into paid media with Facebook and Twitter.”

“They all are experimenting, but nobody is putting 25 percent in social media. It may not sound cool, but traditional media is still the media of choice today,” he said.

Twitter offered 70 million shares trading under the symbol TWTR, generating US$1.82 billion, and gave underwriters a 30-day option to purchase an additional 10.5 million shares.

The IPO assigned a market value of about US$14.4 billion to the company whose messaging service has become a hugely popular tool for celebrities, journalists, political leaders and others. However, by the end of the day, that value had topped US$24 billion.

With the over-allotment, it should be the second-biggest tech IPO after Facebook’s US$16 billion effort last year and ahead of Google Inc’s 2004 offer, which raised US$1.92 billion, according to research firm Dealogic PLC.

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