Twitter's Q4 debut: Slowing user growth betrays revenue strength

The company beats analysts' estimates as it reports its first-ever quarterly and full-year earnings, but all is not rosy in Twitter-ville.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
2 min read
Twitter beat analysts' estimates for quarterly revenue. Twitter

Twitter's first-ever quarterly earnings, which the social network announced Wednesday, beat analysts' estimates. For the fourth quarter, Twitter brought in $243 million in revenue, and adjusted earnings of 2 cents per share. And at the end of the quarter, it had 241 million monthly active users.

Quarterly earnings for the company were up 116 percent from the fourth quarter a year ago. However, it posted a net loss of $511.5 million for the quarter, and its net loss for all of 2013 came in at $645.3 million.

For the full 2013 fiscal year, the company posted $664.9 million in revenue and a loss of 18 cents per share.

Although Twitter has yet to make a profit, investors have been sweet on the company, with its stock rising from its IPO price of $26 in November to today's closing price of $65.25.

But worries about its user growth slowing hit the stock hard in after-hours trading, with the price tumbling nearly 18 percent, to $54.18. In a way, that's no surprise, given that there have long been real questions about the company's ability to grow its user base, especially outside the United States, and to boost its advertising revenues. That's underscored by the fact that although the company's growth in monthly active users was up 30 percent year over year, the growth was just 4 percent since the end of the third quarter. Further, its growth is slowing. Twitter showed 48 percent year-over-year growth at the end of the first quarter of 2013, and 44 percent at the end of the second quarter, but that number dropped to 39 percent for the third quarter, and then to 30 percent for the fourth quarter.

Twitter stock

A consensus of analysts had predicted that Twitter's fourth quarter would bring in $217.8 million, and that it would lose about 2 cents per share. For fiscal 2013, analysts had estimated Twitter would lose 19 cents per share and bring in total revenue of $639.4 million.

Those estimates proved to be off base, as Twitter got into the black on earnings per share, and its revenue was higher than expected.

More highlights from Twitter's fourth-quarter results:

  • 241 million monthly active users (MAUs) as of December 31. MAUs are up 30 percent year over year.
  • 184 million monthly mobile active users, up 37 percent from the same quarter last year. All told, mobile users represented 76 percent of MAUs.
  • 148 billlion timeline views, up 26 percent from a year earlier.
  • Advertising revenue per thousand timeline views came in at $1.49, up 76 percent year over year.