Twitter sale not flying

October 11, 2016

Twitter's share price is down again as it becomes clear that selling the ailing tech star is not going to be easy.

 

With the obvious purchasers - Google, Disney, and Salesforce - all having pulled out over the last week, and with the value of the company in decline, it's safe to say that Twitter's investors have seen happier days.

 

So what next for the Big, Stuttering Bird? 

 

Two main options spring to mind.

 

Soldier On. CEO Jack Dorsey has been working for a year on a turnaround strategy, and there are surely a number of new features and ideas that are set to be released. It would not be a surprise if Twitter abandoned a sale and decided to press on, hoping for some miraculous uptick in its fortunes.

 

But given that the company has so far this year has failed Wall St expectations for Q1 and Q2 2016, and has yet to net a profit in 11 quarters as a public company, this is some bet on the abilities of its management to magically reinvent its fortunes. 

 

Go For Broke. Literally. The problem many potential suitors face is that Twitter's price is beyond what many companies can and will afford. So if the share price continues to drop, eventually it should be at a level sufficiently reduced to make it affordable for a whole new range of suitors. It's market cap has already shrunk to $12 billion, down from the $48 billion it was theoretically worth at its IPO in 2013.

 

Shareholders will naturally complain that the value of their investment is being eroded, but surely some return is better than having money tied up in a company going nowhere and a shareprice forever dipping? Acquirers like AT&T, who have said they are looking at targets, and PE firms, would probably emerge at a low valuation. 

 

There is of course one more option: activist investment. It is not beyond the realms of possibilities for an activist fund to get control of the Board and start asset stripping. Its been done many times before in tech, with the split of eBay and PayPal being one example. 

 

With Twitter having told the market that it will conclude sale negotiations before 27 October, when it reports its Q3 earnings, there is not much time left for a strategic decision about its future. Indeed, there never was much time, given that discussions about a sale only started in September, a rapid timeline in any M&A book.

 

All in all, it's highly likely that the next few weeks will decide the future of one of Tech's greatest names. Interesting times. 

 

 

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