Getting users was never the biggest problem for Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) -- monetizing them was. But the number of those frequent tweeters is shrinking -- its current monthly active user base of 326 million or so is about 9 million less than it was last year at this time, and the company is guiding for further reductions. However, what it can finally show off are earnings, and investors are, apparently, going to cut it some slack on other metrics in light of them.
So, asks MarketFoolery host Mac Greer: Should the skeptics reconsider? Analysts Emily Flippen and Jason Moser join him for this podcast and give their views on the social media service, its business model, and the investment thesis for Twitter stock.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Oct. 29, 2018.
Mac Greer: Last Thursday, Twitter reported better-than-expected earnings. Shares up around 20% since they reported earnings.
I use Twitter. I like the service, but I had kind of written off the business. Should I give it a second look?
Jason Moser: A second look... I'm going to get back to that. I'm not terribly convicted one way or the other there. It's funny to see that what has been held against the business for so long has now become more or less a passing concern. What I mean by that is the monthly user growth. For the longest time, the question was, how big can they grow that user base, they need to grow that user base as big as you can so you can monetize it.
I think we've hit the point, as investors, you need to look at this and say, "Twitter's basically maxed out its user base." It's not going to get much bigger than it already is. It's somewhere around 326 million monthly active users. That was 335 million a year ago. From 335 to 326, and that's going to go lower this coming quarter, as well, they've already guided. The market buying the stock was a little bit odd, but I think it makes some sense. What we're seeing now is, at least they've proven there is a business there.
To put some numbers around that, if you look at the trailing 12 months, Twitter actually has an E to go in the price to earnings ratio. The P/E ratio is not very helpful if there's no E.
Greer: The E has arrived!
Moser: For the longest time, there was no E! But over the trailing 12 months, they've recorded $0.47 in earnings per share. Real GAAP profitability there. That makes a difference. I'm not sitting here telling you the stock is dirt cheap, but at least we know there's a business there. I think that's where investors can start to say, "Maybe there's a way to leverage this platform." They're doing some good things on the video side. Advertisers are saying good things. They're realizing some return there. It's proven itself to be pretty resilient as a platform for the purpose that it serves.
I think there's a lot of trouble that still comes with a lot of these social networks, and we're seeing a lot of the downside of this so-called connected world. But it's good to see them changing the discussion a little bit, for sure.
Greer: Emily, what do you think of Twitter?
Emily Flippen: Since I'm not a Twitter shareholder and I'm not a Twitter user, I would just say to the extent that it plays into my life, Twitter could have posted earnings of $100 per share and it probably wouldn't have changed the needle for me at all. Social networking sites are, in my opinion, very faddy. To me, it's hard to predict where a market goes in that direction, monetizing what I consider to be a relative fad.