Twitter shares tumbled more than 12% on Thursday after the social media platform’s fourth-quarter results suggested it is struggling to convert growing usage into revenue growth.
While the number of daily Twitter users rose 11% year over year, revenue increased just 1% to $717.2 million — the slowest revenue growth since Twitter went public four years ago. Advertising revenue totaled $638 million, down from $641 million a year earlier.
Twitter also posted fourth-quarter earnings of 16 cents per share. Analysts had expected earnings of 12 cents per share on much higher revenue of $740.1 million, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.
In trading Thursday, Twitter shares fell 12.3% to $16.41. “The fourth quarter capped a turbulent year for the social-media service, which faced a botched potential acquisition, growing criticism over lax abuse policies and the departure of more than a dozen top executives, including its chief operating and technology officers,” The Wall Street Journal said.
CEO Jack Dorsey stressed that daily active usage accelerated for a third consecutive quarter and “we see this strong growth continuing.”
“While revenue growth continues to lag audience growth, we are applying the same focused approach that drove audience growth to our revenue product portfolio, focusing on our strengths and the real-time nature of our service,” he said in a news release. “This will take time, but we’re moving fast to show results.”
Among other things, Twitter has made a big bet on live streaming and is hoping to capitalize on the awareness generated by President Donald Trump’s prolific tweeting. But it still expects advertising revenue growth to lag behind user growth this year.
“There isn’t a growth story here,” Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Securities analyst, told Reuters. “They have to convince advertisers that they will reach an expanding audience.”
The WSJ warned that Twitter’s efforts to boost advertising revenue “could clash with the stiffer competition for advertising that Twitter said it expects this year. Twitter’s biggest competitor, Facebook Inc., is widening its lead, and it faces a rival coming up from behind: Snap Inc., expected to go public this year.”