2 Tech Earnings Season Losers: Twitter Inc and LinkedIn, Corp

We've turned the calendar to May, and that means that tech earnings seasons has largely come and gone.

And while earnings seasons for many of the most highly watched technology stocks certainly included its fair shares of noteworthy successes , the calendar second quarter certainly also contained a number of noteworthy flops as well including tech growth darlings Twitter (NYSE: TWTR  ) and LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD  ) .

So as we let the dust settle on another earnings season, let's take a look at what Twitter and LinkedIn got wrong with their recent reports.

Twitter had a lot to live to up going into its earnings report it was almost bound to disappoint, and it certainly did.

Keep in mind, it wasn't all bad for Twitter. Revenue at Twitter doubled in Q1 versus the same quarter last year to $250 million , although that top line growth didn't translate into any kind of profit for the microblogging maven. Twitter lost $132 million  in the quarter, although it's important to note that growth is vastly more important than profits at this point for Twitter. Beyond that, Twitter also demonstrated several bright spots including strength on its mobile advertising platform as well with 80% of overall ad revenue coming from mobile devices.

User growth served as the primary flashpoint for Twitter's report, which decelerated to 25% in Q1 from 30% in the same quarter last year. 25% growth is by no means anything to sneeze at. However, Twitter will need to continue to add to its tweeting masses in order to maintain investors' confidence, plain and simple. We've seen Facebook make huge progress in its advertising business in a relatively short amount of time, so there's certainly plenty of opportunity for Twitter to also grow its own business model.

But with Twitter's valuation nicely described as "rich" at an astounding 33x sales and 158x its next 12 months' earnings, it's absolutely necessary for Twitter to continue to every part of its business for years to come to justify that kind of valuation. Only time will tell whether Twitter can cash in on its immense promise, but as we saw with its earnings report, owning Twitter isn't for those without a stomach for volatility.

Unlike Twitter, professional networking site LiknedIn suffered not from missing analysts' estimates but due to the disappointing guidance it gave for the current quarter.

All told, LinkedIn's sales grew an impressive 46% compared to the same quarter last year. LinkedIn's sales totaled $473 million, just slightly ahead of the average analysts' estimate of $466 million. LinkedIn's sales gains didn't flow to the bottom line, which again is fine for a company at its stage of growth. LinkedIn swing to a net loss of $13 million, versus $22 million in net profits in last year's Q1. 

Turning back to its guidance, LinkedIn said it expects to earn between $500 million and $505 million in its second quarter, which comes in just shy of analysts' expectation of $505.5 million. Feel free to roll your eyes though. Even at the midpoint of its adjusted guidance, LinkedIn's new estimates would represent 38%  growth compared to the same quarter last year. Again, nothing to sneeze at.

LinkedIn is looking to international expansion in key markets like China to help continue its high-growth ways. It will need to do so in order to keep investors satisfied as LinkedIn, even after giving up some of last year's gains, remains pricey 12x sales and 61x it's next 12 months' estimated profits. Investors will have to sit back and watch if LinkedIn can live up to it's sky-high expectations in the short-term. Regardless, LinkedIn's long-term, three-pronged business model certainly remains one of the more attractive in the Internet space I've come across in some time.

Foolish bottom line
Now, keep in mind that earnings seasons is only so helpful for investors as a yardstick in sizing up exactly how well a given firm's doing, and there's clearly still a bull case to be made for either Twitter or LinkedIn.

For their own reasons, Twitter and LinkedIn each disappointed investors, but that doesn't necessarily discredit their long-term growth prospects. Each companies' growth horizon is unique, and it takes a lot more than one quarter of success or failure to determine whether or not a company will ultimately reach its full potential. Quarterly earnings are a snapshot in time.

So while undoubtedly helpful, it's often more important for investors to keep quarterly reports in their proper context. So as earnings season wraps up, it's on to the next one for both LinkedIn and Twitter investors.

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  • Report this Comment On May 06, 2014, at 3:22 PM, novatocarlos wrote:

    I can grow too if I'm giving something away for free and spending hundreds of millions marketing my brand. But, at the end of the day, can it be profitable and is that profitability sustainable? Shouldn't we pay attention to these insiders taking their money off the table? Isn't that a vote AGAINST long-term growth prospects?

  • Report this Comment On May 09, 2014, at 7:10 PM, Hansen wrote:

    Twitter’s revenues from advertisements totaled $220 million if FY13, an increase of 121% YoY. Ad revenues for every 1,000 timeline views were $1.49

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Andrew Tonner

Andrew Tonner is a tech specialist for The Motley Fool. He is a graduate of The University of Arizona with a degree in Finance.

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