Louis Bedigian, Benzinga Staff Writer
Is Twitter (TWTR) the real deal? Investors got their first hint of an answer this afternoon when the social media firm reported its fourth quarter results.
The company's monthly active users (MAUs) now stand at 241 million -- a 30 percent increase year-over-year.
When Twitter had its initial public offering on November 7, 2013, the company had 231.7 million users.
This is still significantly lower than the 1.23 billion MAUs acquired by Facebook (FB), but it's a step in the right direction.
Of course, it does not matter how many users Twitter can acquire if it can't monetize them.
During the fourth quarter, Twitter said that it continued to improve the return on investment for its advertiser by launching new products, such as TV Conversion Targeting. The company also launched a self-serve advertising platform to small- and medium-sized businesses in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.
These and other efforts led to a surprise EPS of $0.02. Wall Street expected a loss.
Twitter's revenue arrived at $242.7 million. This was also a bit higher than the Street estimate, which was around $217.78 million.
"Twitter finished a great year with our strongest financial quarter to date," Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, said in a company release. "We are the only platform that is public, real-time, conversational and widely distributed and I'm excited by the number of initiatives we have underway to further build upon the Twitter experience."
Before the market close, Evercore Partners' Ken Sena told Benzinga that he was expecting Twitter to report a strong quarter.
Wedbush analyst Shyam Patil had high expectations as well.
"Our checks were pretty positive for the fourth quarter," Patil told Benzinga this afternoon, adding that he expected upside to the estimates.
"Clearly the stock is reflecting some amount of upside," said Patil. "The question is how much?"
One of the challenges that Twitter faced was the fact that it did not have a target that, if achieved, would ensure the stock would rise.
"It's kind of a messy setup in that there's not a clear number they have to hit for the stock to go up," said Patil.
"Messy" might not be a strong enough word. Twitter beat estimates, but its stock has plummeted more than 12 percent in after hours trading.
Ad Revenue And User Growth: A Positive Trend?
In addition to MAU increase to 241 million, Twitter's mobile MAUs jumped 37 percent to 184 million.
Timeline views rose 26 percent to 148 million.
Better still, ad revenue per thousand timeline views increased 76 percent in the fourth quarter, rising to $1.49.
Twitter is currently forecasting Q1 sales within the range of $230 million to $240 million. This is notably higher than the Street estimate of $215 million.
The company expects its FY2014 sales to be between $1.15 billion and $1.20 billion versus the Street's estimate of $1.13 billion.
Better Start Than Facebook, Until Now...
Despite a degree of skepticism from some analysts and investors, Twitter shares performed much better than its social media rival.
From November 7, 2013 through February 4, 2014, Twitter rose more than 47 percent.
During Facebook's first three months (May 18, 2012 through August 18, 2012), the world's largest social network lost more than 50 percent of its value.
Facebook has since rebounded, rising more than 119 percent over the last year. But its early days were far more difficult than anyone could have ever imagined.
With Twitter down more than 12 percent in after hours trading, the company might have to do more than surpass analyst estimates during the next quarter.
Twitter is a promising social media company that has shown greater growth than what most analysts anticipated. That growth has not been enough to satisfy investor demands, however, which seem to be increasing with every IPO.
Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Louis Bedigian had no position in the equities mentioned in this report.