Twitter reported fourth quarter earnings today that fell well short of analyst estimates, despite a modest uptick in monthly active users.
The company said fourth quarter revenue was $717 million, far below the analyst consensus forecast of $739.97 million, though up from the $710.5 million the company reported in the same quarter one year ago.
The company said it had 319 million monthly active users for the quarter ending Dec. 31, up 4 percent year-over-year and up from 317 million in the previous quarter.
Twitter also saw its losses for the quarter grow to $167 million, not quite double the $90.2 million it posted for the same period a year ago. In part, it pointed to the high cost of the firings announced last year in an effort to trim expenses. Indeed, its expenses grew 11 percent to $861 million in the fourth quarter compared to the previous year due primarily to restructuring costs, the company said.
“2016 was a transformative year as we reset and focused on why people use Twitter: it’s the fastest way to see what’s happening and what everyone’s talking about,” Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, said in a statement.
The company said optimistically that it continued to grow daily active users for the third straight quarter. It also said this DAU growth continues to accelerate, up 11 percent year-over-year for the quarter, compared to a 7 percent and 3 percent rate of increase in Q3 and Q2, respectively.
Despite saying that advertisers were excited about Twitter and its DAU growth, the company noted that it will face big challenges in 2017 leveraging that relationship. In fact, for the fourth quarter, Twitter said it experienced a slight decline in advertising revenue, to $638 million. It was 14 percent growth in its “data licensing and other revenue” that saved the quarter from being an ever bigger disaster.
Within its ad revenue, the company said growth in its video products was a bright spot, but that was hurt by declines in revenue from Promoted Tweets.
“As previously stated, we expect advertising revenue growth to continue to lag that of audience growth in 2017,” the company said. “Advertising revenue growth may be further impacted by escalating competition for digital ad spending and the re-evaluation of our revenue product feature portfolio, which could result in the de-emphasis of certain product features.”
Twitter said it would not provide specific revenue guidance for the first quarter.
Not surprisingly, investors drove Twitter’s stock down 11 percent in pre-market trading.
The picture looks a bit better when one steps back and looks at the whole year. Twitter said revenues grew 14 percent for the year to $2.5 billion. Still, it reported a loss for the year of $457 million. Much of Twitter’s losses for the quarter and year are the result of extraordinarily high expenses it must record for its stock-based compensation.
To that end, Twitter also sought to emphasize that it remains financially sound. The company generated $444 million in cash in 2016, up from just $5 million in 2015. At the end of 2016, Twitter had $3.8 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities on hand.
That means it certainly is not in an immediate crisis. But it still must figure out how to spin its growing number of users into advertising gold.