Twitter looks to Australia for expansion

Twitter has earmarked Australia as a country in which to expand operations as the US social media network attempts to generate more revenue outside its home market.
By · 5 Oct 2013
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5 Oct 2013
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Twitter has earmarked Australia as a country in which to expand operations as the US social media network attempts to generate more revenue outside its home market.

The disclosure was made as part of documents released for Twitter's planned US sharemarket listing, where the group outlined a target to sell as much as $US1 billion ($1.1 billion) in shares.

Last month, Twitter announced it would go public but had filed confidential papers. Early on Friday, it made its prospectus public through US regulators, providing a first glimpse at its financial health.

The Twitter initial public offering is set to make early staff and investors in the company very rich.

Despite clear evidence it is quickly increasing its revenue from mobile advertising, the company also disclosed that it had not yet turned a profit, that it had been steadily losing money and that its user growth had been slowing significantly since the end of last year.

The social network disclosed that it planned to use the ticker symbol TWTR, but it did not specify a stock exchange. The $US1 billion fund-raising was a pro-forma number designed to calculate listing fees.

Evan Williams, one of the company's founders, owns 12 per cent of the company, a stake valued at $US1.2 billion in August, when the company last priced its staff stock options. Jack Dorsey, another co-founder, owns stock worth about $US483 million. Former News Corp chief operating officer Peter Chernin is a director of the company, although his exposure is $US3.6 million worth of stock options.

In regulatory filings Twitter said it plans to increase its sales and marketing support teams in Australia in the near term. Other countries earmarked for expansion include Brazil, Ireland and the Netherlands. The expansion was part of a broader plan to increase international advertising revenue, Twitter said.

The filing said Twitter has already achieved significant global scale with more than 215 million monthly active users, including more than 100 million daily active users, spanning nearly every country.

Users create about 500 million tweets every day, it added.

There are nearly 3 million Twitter accounts in Australia. A recent social media report by Telstra unit Sensis found about 15 per cent of Australian internet users used Twitter, while penetration for Facebook was more than 90 per cent.

Twitter's impending public offering seizes on the continued growth of social networking and mobile devices, two trends the company has ridden to enormous growth. Founded seven years ago as a side project in a floundering start-up firm, it is now one of the world's biggest public forums, ranking alongside Facebook.

The company has turned its simple product, messages no longer than 140 characters, into a global phenomenon. It has found a way to make money through advertising, notably through sponsored tweets that resemble regular users' posts. And much of that advertising revenue is on mobile.

In its filing, Twitter said that 75 per cent of its users entered the service through mobile devices during the second quarter and that 65 per cent of its revenue came from mobile ads. Twitter earned far more of its advertising revenue from US users than from non-US users, which analysts said was an area in which it needed to improve.

Its revenue for the first half of this year was $US253.6 million, more than double the amount it brought in during the same period last year.

Yet Twitter has been steadily losing money, reporting a net loss of $US79 million last year and $US69 million for the first six months of this year, although some analysts said such losses were not unreasonable for a young, fast-growing company.

Twitter has not set a price for its offering. But when it last set an internal price for staff, in August, it valued the stock at $US20.62 a share, suggesting a value of $US9.7 billion. That figure is equal to 22 times the sales that the company posted in the 12 months through June.
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