Social media specialist Weibo (NASDAQ:WB) reported fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, March 5. The company, often referred to as the Twitter of China, posted 28% sales growth while holding its profit margins steady. Here's a closer look at Weibo's fourth quarter.

Weibo's fourth-quarter results: The raw numbers

Metric

Q4 2018

Q4 2017

Year-Over-Year Change

Net revenue

$482 million

$377 million

28%

Net income attributable to Weibo

$167 million

$131 million

27%

GAAP earnings per share (diluted)

$0.73

$0.58

26%

Data source: Weibo.

What happened with Weibo this quarter?

  • Weibo's fourth-quarter sales fell $3 million below the midpoint of management's guidance range. The shortfall was explained by mildly negative foreign exchange effects as well as competitive and regulatory pressure in the mobile gaming sector.
  • The company added 17 million monthly active users (MAUs) during the quarter, stopping at 462 million names at the end of December. Daily active users, or DAUs, landed just above 200 million accounts after adding 5 million users in the fourth quarter and 28 million accounts across 2018 as a whole.
  • Ad sales rose 26% year over year and accounted for 87% of Weibo's total revenues. Value-added services, which includes features such as paid user accounts, gaming microtransactions, and licensing Weibo's data to other companies, increased by 44%.
  • Weibo's largest customer, e-commerce giant Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), slowed its ad orders by 18% year over year. The Alibaba account generated $31.6 million of fourth-quarter revenues.

Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Weibo.

Three smiling people sitting on beanbags looking at their smartphones.

Image source: Getty Images.

What management had to say

On the earnings call, CEO Gaofei Wang reminded analysts that most of the company's new users are brought in via a preinstalled Weibo app on new smartphones. The company is supplementing that effort with TV ads and the client side of online advertising, and that will be the main user acquisition strategy in 2019 as well. The company is still tweaking its user-grabbing strategy, of course.

"For 2019, the spending will be optimized with more focus to retain the new users and their engagement rate with the platform. We feel a bit less pressured in terms of the MAU acquisition," Wang said. "In terms of video content, we will definitely have a leading competitive edge in terms of breaking news, hot events and/or celebrity vertical, these types of things."

Weibo is looking for content creation partnerships in certain niches to keep the company relevant in the exploding short-video market, where its presence is felt mostly as a distributor of quick-fire news clips rather than popular entertainment.

Looking ahead

In the first quarter, Weibo expects its net revenue to land near $400 million for a year-over-year increase of roughly 22% year over year on a constant currency basis. The revenue guidance assumes exchange rates to hold steady at approximately 6.75 Chinese renminbi per U.S. dollar.