The Twitter earnings details were pretty ugly. While TWTR stock beat expectations on revenues and profits, its user growth missed the mark. That’s a big no-no, given that user growth was already flattening out; across 2011, Twitter was doubling its user base every single quarter, and in its most recent numbers, TWTR posted just 25% growth year-over-year.
Sure, revenue doubled … but it merely hit expectations.
TWTR stock isn’t profitable, so clearly its value is derived from its reach — and slowing growth in its user base is going to be hard to overcome.
In a note Wednesday, Bernstein Research analysts Carlos Kirjner and Peter Paskhaver wrote that “neither the top and bottom line beats nor new business initiatives are likely to be enough” for Twitter without a significant change in the trajectory of its user growth. The analysts predict TWTR to top out at just 87 million U.S. users and 385 million international users at this rate, good for a ceiling of around 472 million users a few years from now.
That doesn’t create a very compelling case for Twitter stock at this moment, and at this valuation.
Something could surely change the story for TWTR stock, of course, including a significant change to the platform or organization that increases monetization. After all, Facebook has struggled to grow its North America and Europe audience at more than a low-single-digit rate for some time and has juiced both the top line and bottom line by pushing up the revenue per user instead of the users alone.
Another possibility, of course, is that Twitter earnings for Q2 show an acceleration in user growth and Wall Street breathes a big sigh of relief.
But until this happens, it’s not wise to bargain-hunt in TWTR stock.
Sure, shares are now at the lowest level since the company went public. Sure, insiders have no plans to sell after the lockup on shares expires, according to a recently filed 8-K, and there will not be a secondary offering to dilute shareholders anytime soon.
It’s tempting to think that the panic selling is now over, that the shorts have made their money and are bound to cover and that the negativity in TWTR stock is overdone.
But be very careful about bargain hunting in Twitter immediately after this ugly report.
Because if users continue to flatline at this unprofitable social media stock, Wall Street’s opinion could get even worse before it gets better.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.