Loss-making Twitter seeks to raise US$1 billion in IPO

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 10:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 10:44am

Twitter revealed its highly anticipated stock offering on Thursday, with the hugely popular messaging platform seeking to raise up to US$1 billion on Wall Street.

The initial public offering is expected to be the most sought-after since Facebook in May last year, a listing that faced numerous glitches on the Nasdaq. Facebook’s share price went into a slump before recovering this year.

Twitter will be keen to avoid such a calamitous debut. In announcing its plans, the company said that it had 218 million active users on June 30 and had lost almost US$80 million on nearly US$317 million in revenue last year.

The public version of the IPO filing came three weeks after the California firm indicated it had filed a confidential document, taking advantage of a recent law designed to help emerging companies.

Twitter will trade under the symbol TWTR, the filing said, without indicating on which exchange the stock will be bought and sold.

Private share transactions have valued the company at about US$10 billion.

Twitter did not give a date for the IPO but said it would take place as “soon as practicable”.

The document contained the first published financial data on Twitter, a platform that has turned into a key tool for celebrities, journalists, politicians and millions of ordinary people around the world.

The company, which allows users to share messages of up to 140 characters, said it “represents a service shaped by the people, for the people”.

“The mission we serve as Twitter, Inc. is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers,” the IPO document said.

“Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve – and do not detract from – a free and global conversation.”

Twitter said it had been growing rapidly but the number of active users was not as high as some private estimates.

“We have already achieved significant global scale, and we continue to grow. We have more than 215 million MAUs [monthly active users] spanning nearly every country,” the document said.

“Our users include millions of people from around the world, as well as influential individuals and organisations, such as world leaders, government officials, celebrities, athletes, journalists, sports teams, media outlets and brands. Our users create approximately 500 million Tweets every day.”

A chart in the IPO document showed Twitter had 218 million active users by June 30, up from 151 million a year earlier. About 49 million of the active users are in the United States, the filing showed.

While the number of users has grown, Twitter has been losing money since 2010, which is as far back as the financial statements go.

It reported a 2010 loss of US$67 million on US$28 million in revenue; in 2011, the loss was US$164 million on US$106 million in revenue; and the last year loss was US$79.4 million with revenues of US$317 million.

Twitter said the loss for the first six months of this year was US$69.2 million, with revenues of US$253.6 million.

Some 85 per cent to 87 per cent of its revenues come from advertising, mainly in the form of “promoted” or sponsored tweets.

Twitter offered the customary caution for investors, saying it faces risks if conditions shift.

“We may face challenges in increasing the size of our user base, including, among others, competition from alternative products and services, a decline in the number of influential users on Twitter or a perceived decline in the quality of content available on Twitter,” it said.

The IPO will be underwritten by investment banks including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Securities, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Allen & Co and Code Advisors.