Twitter likely to launch IPO in 2014

Listing plan comes after microblogging service reshuffles management ranks

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 4:31am

Twitter is about to celebrate its seventh year amid speculation that a shake-up of its management ranks before the Christmas holidays might pave the way for an initial public offering as soon as next year.

Based in San Francisco, the world's largest microblogging service is likely to follow the listings of Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, which should help IPO-hungry Wall Street banks and the company's international expansion strategy.

The company is set to open an office in Paris, the seventh outside the United States.

Katie Stanton, vice-president of international market development at Twitter, said: "The next market is France, where we see 150 per cent user growth per year and that's 350 per cent growth in tweets on a daily basis."

According to a report by Greencrest Capital, a research firm that focuses on pre-IPO businesses, Twitter's preparation for its public debut may begin this year and the offering will come next year, given its recent personnel changes.

Greencrest Capital said that Ali Rowghani, the company's chief financial officer, had taken the position of chief operating officer, in the shape-up followed by senior hires from social-game company Zynga and Newsvine, a collaborative news website.

"Twitter is possibly positioning itself for an IPO in 2014, if not sooner. Only time and revenues will tell if the company is headed in the right direction," Greencrest Capital said in a research note.

A rough estimate of the market value of Twitter can be found through its shares that trade in online secondary markets.

The text-based communication service company is being valued at US$11 billion, about one-sixth the market value of Facebook's US$61 billion, according to Greencrest Capital.

The key question in a successful listing of Twitter was its earnings potential, after Facebook struggled with its monetisation plan, said a Hong Kong-based internet analyst at a US investment bank.

A series of dismal performance from online companies, including Facebook and Zynga, could weigh on any potential share offering by Twitter.

Twitter has stepped up a campaign to induce marketers to devote more of their advertising budgets to its service, which lets users post messages of no more than 140 characters to followers.

With about 500 million active users worldwide, demand for advertising at Twitter is expected to be sizable. Some analysts project the company could reach US$1 billion in sales next year, up from US$140 million in 2011.

Facebook, the world's largest social-network site, has seen its market value drop by one-third since its IPO in May last year. Other social-network sites boast massive user bases but have not yet figured out how to make money. The shift to mobile devices is making monetising more challenging than expected.

Internet users on the mainland are also moving to use mobile devices, with government data suggesting mobile use surpassed desktops in June last year, thanks to the strong growth of mobile phones in rural areas.

As a result of the change in user preference, internet giant Tencent is hoping to capture the sharp rise in the use of smartphones by launching WeChat, a mobile instant-message application, to compete against Sina's Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog on the mainland.

Tencent, a Shenzhen-based start-up co-founded by Ma Huateng in 1998, said registered users in the two-year-old WeChat would pass the 300 million mark by the end of this month.