Facebook's dismal debut clouds Twitter prospects

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 6:16am

When Facebook was preparing to go public last year, the telephones at Granite Investment Advisers rang off the hook as clients called about the social media's company's highly anticipated debut.

In stark contrast, the investment company is yet to field any calls about Twitter.

"Not a single call yet," said Tim Lesko, the principal at Granite, adding that he himself would hold back until he saw a few more quarters of financial results.

"We want to start seeing numbers. They need to mature a little bit before we would think that we were getting good numbers and consistent numbers."

As Twitter races towards the year's most highly anticipated technology offering, memories of Facebook's disappointing 2012 debut are dampening enthusiasm for shares of the eight-year-old online messaging service.

Like Facebook, Twitter enjoys strong brand recognition, which typically translates to outsized retail investor interest. That was one of the reasons Facebook was able to raise its initial public offering price to US$38 a share, giving the company a valuation of US$100 billion, or about 99 times its 2011 earnings.

Facebook shares plummeted on their first day of trading and continued to decline in the following months. They did not regain their IPO valuation until more than a year later.

Twitter, which is expected to go public before November 28, has yet to determine pricing, but investors say it might come under pressure from its financial backers to go high. Analysts expect the company, which posted a US$69 million loss last year, to seek a valuation of at least US$10 billion.

"Right now, we think it could be a repeat of Facebook, where it comes in heavily hyped and is too expensive," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris in New York.

And as with Facebook, some investors point to slowing user growth and engagement as causes for concern.

From the March quarter of 2012 to the June quarter this year, Twitter's monthly active users leapt 58 per cent to an average of about 218 million. But users grew just 6.9 per cent between the second quarter and the first.

The firm revealed scorching revenue growth on Thursday, but also huge losses, reminiscent of's 1997 stock debut, with just US$16 million in revenue and a loss of about US$6 million.