News Column

As Twitter soars even higher, the hedge funds bet on a nasty fall

February 2, 2014

After Twitter's stock market listing in November, Dick Costolo stopped geotagging his tweets. The chief executive of the $35bn social media company clearly decided it was wise to share a little less. Appetite for Twitter stock means Costolo is now worth north of $500m . Letting followers know whether he is at his San Francisco home, entering the Goldman Sachs building in New York or visiting the offices of a Silicon Valley startup could swing Twitter's share price and compromise his own safety. The much-loved microblogging platform's valuation is off the map. Twitter is now worth more than BT, or more than M&S and Sainsbury's combined. Twitter went to market on 7 November at $26 a share. It is now trading at $64 . This is 54 times the $650m in revenues for 2013 that the loss-making platform is expected to announce at its maiden results as a public company on Friday. A read-across from Facebook , valued at 20 times last year's revenues, suggests Twitter should be worth maybe $13bn . Twitter has more than 230 million monthly active users - a fraction of Facebook's 1.23 billion-strong following - although Twitter's users are probably more engaged, sending on average two tweets a day. Brian Wieser at Pivotal Research Group , one of the financial analysts with the best grasp of online advertising, thinks Twitter will be earning no more than $5bn in 2018 and therefore deserves to be traded at no more than $34 a share. The hedge funds seem to agree: more than 10% of Twitter's shares have been shorted - a significantly greater proportion than for Facebook and LinkedIn . Do its employees secretly agree too? We will find out in February, and again in May, when the lock-ins preventing them selling their shares expire. The same moment at Facebook was the trigger for a massive selloff, though with economic recovery taking root, investors could be more gentle with Twitter. Still, the coming weeks may well bring the bird back down to earth.

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Source: Observer (UK)

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