The Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) IPO has been hyped as the biggest of the year. Yet in a recent Reuters poll, only 1 of 29 broker-dealers and independent advisors recommends the stock.
Such is Twitter's fate. It's an enigma to some. (Why use a service limited to 140 characters?) It's a stigma to others. (Remember that other social-media darling's IPO fiasco?) So when Twitter finally goes public (as early as November 7), what should an investor do?
Embrace the blue bird
Buying at the IPO price makes sense. Twitter desperately wants to dodge the Carrie-esque debutante's ball Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) suffered at its IPO unveiling. That's why Twitter's entrée onto Wall Street includes a shift to the NYSE (rather than Facebook choice, NASDAQ), and a modest valuation of up to $11 billion (between $17 and $20 per share). The price sits far below some analysts' expectations of $28-30 per share, and nearly half of Facebook's $38 per share debut price.
Moreover, if you understand Twitter's long-term strategy, the stock looks even more appealing. Twitter has evolved from its micro-blogging roots. As it stated in its filing with the SEC, Twitter developed "a fundamentally new way for people to create, distribute and discover content." It's now a major news and media content delivery platform optimized for mobile devices.
Twitter even positioned itself as an integral part of the $75 billion television industry. "Twitter's real-time nature," its S-1 filing states, "allows our advertisers to capitalize on live events." Think Super Bowl and other major sporting events where millions of TV ad dollars flow and Twitter's "real-time nature" gives it a competitive advantage.
Peril or promise
Naysayers will point out Twitter isn't profitable. On top of that, their losses increased in the first nine months of this year as opposed to the same period last year.
Twitter's somber income statement benefits those who buy at the IPO. Remember, Twitter's ad revenue more than doubled this year over last with more revenue growth to come from international market expansion. By 2015, eMarketer estimates, ad revenue will hit $1.3 billion.
Twitter's got the products to achieve that goal. Their cornerstone, Promoted Tweets, is an ad format that works well on mobile devices. Others quickly copied the model, including Facebook, which began inserting ads into users' News Feeds, zipping from zero mobile ad dollars pre-IPO to over 40% of the company's revenue in less than a year. Its mobile success propelled Facebook stock from the doldrums of an $18.87 post-IPO price to a recent high of $54.83.
By contrast, Twitter already generates a mind-boggling 70% of its ad revenue from mobile. With the company's acquisition of mobile advertising exchange, MoPub, Twitter can build real-time ad bidding capabilities that enable it to unlock increased revenues from its base of mobile advertisers.
The Foolish verdict
Given its unique strengths in mobile, ubiquity on TV, room for growth internationally, and its increasing list of ad products (such as Twitter Amplify, which now monetizes video), Twitter is well positioned to continue its revenue growth. And since Twitter is playing it cautious for its debut with a modest valuation, its IPO is conservatively priced. That's why buying Twitter at its IPO price makes a lot of sense.