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Investment Overview for Twitter (NYSE:TWTR)
Below we highlight key drivers of Twitter's value that present opportunities for upside or downside to its current Trefis price estimate.
United States Advertising
- U.S. Average Monthly Active Users: We currently forecast this figure to increase from 61 million in 2014 to over 110 million by the end of our forecast period. However, there could be an upside of about 20% if this figure was to reach 150 million instead.
- U.S. Ad Revenue Per 1,000 Timeline Views: We currently forecast this metric to increase from $4.4 in 2014 to $13.8 by the end of our forecast period. However, there could be a downside of about 15% if this figure was to increase to only $10. On the other hand, if Twitter's ad monetization grows much faster than we forecast driven by higher inventory sell through and increased pricing, and the U.S. ad revenue per 1,000 timeline views reaches close to $17.5, there could be 15% upside to our price estimate.
- International Average Monthly Active Users: We currently forecast this figure to increase from 213.5 million in 2014 to 439 million by the end of our forecast period. However, there could be an upside of about 10% if this figure was to reach 550 million instead. There is some likelihood of this outcome given the growing smartphone usage across the globe and increasing adoption of Twitter by celebrities and political leaders.
- International Ad Revenue Per 1,000 Timeline Views: We currently forecast this metric to increase from $0.82 in 2014 to $3.15 by the end of our forecast period. However, there could be a downside of about 10% if this figure was to increase to only $2.20. On the other hand, if Twitter's ad monetization grows much faster than we forecast driven by higher inventory sell through and increased pricing, and the international ad revenue per 1,000 timeline views reaches close to $4.0, there could be 10% upside to our price estimate
Twitter is an online platform for self-expression and real-time conversation. The updates and messages posted by users are termed as 'tweets,' and are limited to 140 characters. This essentially enables a quick exchange of information, while maintaining the conciseness and relevance of the messages. The company had close to 288 million average monthly active users at the end of 2014.
Twitter earns revenue through advertising and data licensing, with the advertising business accounting for a majority of its revenues. The company charges advertisers and marketers for promoting their tweets and Twitter accounts. Additionally, it charges data re-sellers for access to user tweets. Ninety-four out of top 100 ad age advertisers used Twitter's services in 2013.
We believe that the United States Advertising business is the primary source of value for Twitter because:
Significantly Higher Ad Monetization Compared To International Business
The U.S. accounted for approximately 66% of Twitter's revenues in Q4 2014. Although the international business is growing, the monetization level remains much higher for the U.S.
Advertising revenue per 1,000 timeline views stood at an estimated $4.42 for the U.S. in 2014, more than five times the corresponding figure for the international segment. We notice a similar discrepancy for Facebook as well, which is a much more mature and profitable company. As there are structural reasons for this disparity, ad monetization in the U.S. may remain significantly higher for the foreseeable future. The average ad pricing in international markets is lower due to lack of purchasing power. In addition to this, the online advertising hasn't picked up in many of the emerging markets as much as it has in the U.S.
Growing Popularity Of Social Networking Platforms
With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops, mobile computing, and in turn the Internet, are now ubiquitous. Users can communicate within the range of any wireless LAN or cell phone tower. And for this, these devices allow users to employ a wide range of social media, each optimized to a specific purpose.
Facebook's monthly active user base has increased from about 100 million in 2008 to close to 1.39 billion currently. The figure for LinkedIn also jumped substantially in 2013 and 2014. Twitter is not behind either, and recorded total monthly active users growth of 30% and 20% in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Growing Online And Mobile advertising
The online advertising market is growing, and mobile is going to be the forefront of this growth in the coming years. Google has long dominated this market but Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Twitter, are beginning to tap the opportunity.
According to Twitter, the global online advertising market (excluding mobile) is expected to grow from $91.1 billion in 2012 to $124.7 billion in 2017, reflecting a compounded annual growth rate of 6.5%. During the same period, global mobile advertising market is projected to increase from $10 billion to $52.2 billion, which suggests that the proportion of mobile in the overall online advertising market will increase rapidly. This plays right into Twitter's hands as the company earns more than 80% of its revenues from the mobile platform.
Though Ad Engagements Are Rising Rapidly On The Platform, The Cost Per Ad Engagement Is Declining
Ad load on the Twitter platform remains low at around 1.3% as compared to 5% for more mature social networks. During Q3 2014, whereas cost per ad engagement fell by 17%, total ad engagements grew by 150% on an year-over-year basis. In Q4 2014, ad engagements grew by 78%, which far outpaced 10% growth in cost per ad engagement during the period.
We think the company has a long way to go in terms of selling its ad inventory, and this is why the number of ads are growing. Additionally, it appears that currently there is oversupply which explains the decline in the average ad pricing. It is noteworthy that this trend is opposite to what Facebook is witnessing - In Q4 2014, overall number of ad impressions fell by 65% for FB; at the same time, average price per ad engagement rose by 335%
Twitter Is Testing New Ad Formats
Twitter is testing new ad products such as promoted video ads and buy button on tweets. Recently, it also came up with 'Twitter Offers', which allows users to utilize their credit cards as coupons. This new ad product allows retailers to directly measure the ROI of their online ads.
We believe once these ad formats are rolled out more widely, it would lead to enhanced monetization on the platform.
Share Of International Ad Sales Is Rising
International ad sales rose by 141% during the fourth quarter of 2014, which was much higher than U.S. ad revenue growth of 78%. The share of international sales in overall sales has increased from 28% in Q1 2014 to 34% in Q4 2014 and we expect this proportion to continue to rise.
Twitter is expanding its sales presence across the globe and during Q4 2014, it added 13 new countries taking the total number of countries, where it has a sales presence to 73. In addition, it is also enhancing the reach of its self-service advertising platform (which primarily caters to small and medium-sized businesses) across additional markets and we expect these initiatives to propel sales growth in the coming quarters.
User Engagement On Twitter Platform Has Fallen Recently
The number of average monthly active users rose by 4.8% sequentially in Q3 to 284 million; this represented a slowdown compared to quarter-over-quarter growth rates of 5.8% and 6.3% seen in Q1 and Q2 respectively. During the fourth quarter of 2014, Twitter added only 4 million users sequentially as the rollout of iOS8 caused integration issues for the company.
In the first quarter of 2015, Twitter's MAU rose by 18% year-over-year to 302 million. However, user base additions could slow down during the second quarter, as the management indicated that user growth was off to a slow start in April during Q1 2015 earnings call.
Passive User Base Could Also Be Monetized
Apart from the 288 million MAUs on its platform, there are more than twice as many users who come to Twitter-owned properties but don’t login or access tweets through syndication across the web. We believe that over the long run, Twitter will start monetizing this passive user base and this could also become a huge revenue stream for the company.
Recently, Twitter signed partnership agreements with Flipboard and Yahoo Japan to syndicate its ads across their respective web properties. A deal with Google was also signed recently to include tweets in Google search results. We expect these partnerships will meaningfully impact data licensing revenues in the coming quarters.
Certain Direct Response Ad Products Showed Lower-Than-Expected Monetization
During Q1 2015, Twitter's ad revenue growth was impacted by lower-than-expected monetization on some of the newer direct response ad products. Specifically, an increase in ad pricing restricted the demand for advertising. Additionally, Twitter improved the quality of ads, which led to lower click-through rates and monetization. These headwinds are expected to persist in the near-term.
Real-time Interaction Gaining Traction
Due to increasing Internet access and usage of mobile devices, users are increasingly getting involved in real-time interactions online. And this plays to Twitter's strengths. A lot of events, news and incidences are reported on Twitter much before they are reported by traditional news sources. The company has stated that the user engagement on Twitter peaks during live events.
How Does Trefis Modelling Work?
How do we get the historical numbers for this chart?
Trefis has a team of in-house Analysts who gather historical data from company filings and other verifiable sources. When historicals are available, we explain how we got them at the bottom of the Trefis analysis section below.
Who came up with the Trefis forecast for future years?
The Trefis team of in-house Analysts considers a variety of factors when projecting any forecast. The rationale for our projections is explained in the Trefis analysis section below.
How does my dragging the trendline on the chart impact the stock price?
- We use forecasts for business drivers to calculate forecasted Revenues and Profits for each division of the company.
- We then use forecasted Profits in a Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model to obtain the Price Estimate for the company.
See more on: DCF Methodology
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