Twitter on Thursday unveiled plans to pump up the globally popular one-to-many messaging service with a $1 billion stock market debut.
The initial public offering (IPO) is expected to be the most sought-after since Facebook in May 2012, a listing that faced numerous glitches on the Nasdaq and which saw the company’s share price slump before recovering this year.
Twitter outlined its plans in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, providing the the first public insights into the San Francisco company that has rocketed to Internet stardom since its launch in 2006.
“Social media is red hot,” said Internet analyst Lou Kerner. “Twitter is front and center benefiting from market enthusiasm for all things social, and remarkably strong metrics.”In the regulatory filing, Twitter disclosed that it had 218 million active users as of June 30 in a 44 percent increase from the same point a year earlier. It reported that it lost almost $80 million on nearly $317 million in revenue in 2012.
Twitter brought in $253.6 million in revenue in the first half of this year, but remained in the red with a loss of about $69 million, the company said in the filing.
Some noted that Twitter would be close to breaking even this year if it hadn’t spent slightly more than $67 million on social television analytics firm BlueFin Labs.
Forrester analyst Zachary Reiss-Davis sees the capital-raising move by Twitter as a sign the company is intent on improving ways people enjoy content on its platform and how marketers connect with users.
“Users should be happy about this,” Reiss-Davis said.
“It looks like Twitter is looking at how to enrich the experience and it understands that to build a successful service they have to create something people like and want to come back to and spend time on.”
A challenge for Twitter will be finding money-making advertising methods that take advantage of the real-time, and short-lasting, nature of posts at the service while not annoying users.
“Things on Twitter have very short shelf lives, and advertisers are going to have to adapt to that,” the analyst said.
He expected marketing on Twitter to become integrated with other media such as television viewing in what are referred to as “second-screen” experiences in which people delve into tweets while watching shows.
The public version of the IPO filing came three weeks after Twitter filed a confidential document, taking advantage of a recent law designed to help emerging companies.
Twitter will trade under the symbol TWTR, the filing said, without indicating on which exchange the stock will be bought and sold.
Private share transactions have valued the company around $10 billion, making a billionaire out of co-founder Evan Williams who is reported to have a 12-per cent stake.
Twitter did not give a date for the IPO but said it would take place as “soon as practicable.”The company, which allows users to share messages of up to 140 characters, said its mission is to “give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers,” the IPO document said.
It users range from celebrities and professional news agencies to individuals with thoughts to share. Twitter reported that about 500 million Tweets are fired off daily.
While the number of users has grown, Twitter has been losing money since 2010, which is as far back as the financial statements go.
Some 85 to 87 per cent of its revenues come from advertising, mainly in the form of “promoted” or sponsored tweets.
Twitter offered the customary caution for investors, saying it faces risks if conditions shift.
“We may face challenges in increasing the size of our user base, including, among others, competition from alternative products and services, a decline in the number of influential users on Twitter or a perceived decline in the quality of content available on Twitter,” it said.
The research firm eMarketer has estimated that Twitter would bring in $582.8 million in global ad revenue this year, and nearly $1 billion in 2014.
Twitter opened the door to advertisers in 2010 by allowing marketers to insert paid “promoted tweets” into user feeds. It is likely to woo investors with its natural fit with the trend of connecting with the Internet on smartphones or tablet computers.
It began mobile ads in 2012 and allowed advertisers to target users based on their geographic location or whether they access the service using mobile devices or personal computers.
Twitter said some 75 per cent of its users access the the service from a mobile device.