Twitter Pitch to IPO Investors Hinges on Potential for Growth

Twitter Inc. will make the case to potential investors in its initial public offering that it needs to keep spending to grow, and profit will come once it can reap the benefits of those investments.

“The magnitude of our investments has limited our margins,” Chief Financial Officer Mike Gupta said in a video posted yesterday to accompany the investor road show, which begins next week and will take Gupta and Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo from their San Francisco home to cities including New York, Denver, and Chicago. “In the near term we will continue to invest aggressively to capture this opportunity and position ourselves for long-term success.”

Gupta and Costolo met yesterday in New York with IPO underwriters Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to rehearse their presentation, people with knowledge of the plans said. At JPMorgan’s headquarters on New York’s Park Avenue, two banners with the company’s logo and the words “Twitter IPO 2013” adorned the lobby.

Twitter is seeking to raise as much as $1.4 billion in the IPO that would value it as high as $10.9 billion. It’s planning to sell 70 million shares -- or a 13 percent stake -- at $17 to $20 each. The company, which has more than 230 million users compared with Facebook Inc.’s more than 1 billion, is still unprofitable, as it spends to improve its advertising products and grow its user base in international markets.

Profit Message

The company will point toward an adjusted measure of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to signal its profitability, Gupta said in the presentation. The adjusted Ebitda excludes the effects of stock-based compensation and investments in servers, leases and networking equipment to support the company’s expansion, the company’s filing showed.

“We believe we have the ability to significantly expand our margins as we see returns on our investments,” Gupta said. Gross margins can reach the high 70 percent range, while adjusted Ebitda could reach 40 percent, he said.

Adjusted Ebitda was $9.3 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with $2.9 million a year earlier. Without any adjustment to exclude expenses, the company’s loss expanded to $64.6 million in the quarter from $21.6 million a year earlier.

Traveling Pitch

Twitter will hold meetings in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week, Boston on Thursday, and Chicago on Friday, according to a schedule obtained by Bloomberg. The following week it will visit investors in San Francisco on Nov. 4, and Los Angeles the next day, before ending up back in New York on Nov. 6, the same day the final pricing of the shares is scheduled. Trading is expected to start the next day.

In the presentation video, which was posted on the website, Costolo pitches the reach of Twitter posts, or tweets, saying that 44 percent of Americans hear about them outside of the site -- through TV channels or news stories.

“Broadcasters have increasingly found that Twitter is a perfect complement to TV as a way to drive engagement,” he said.

There are more than 500 million tweets each day now, compared with 2 million per day in January 2009, the company has said. The company makes money as advertisers pay to promote their tweets to a wider base of users, based on their interests. Advertisers are paying for tweets that get users to download mobile applications, buy products or indicate their interest in a company or cause, Costolo said.

Relative Value

Twitter is seeking a valuation of 9.1 times projected 2014 sales of $1.2 billion, according to data released in its filing and analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s 29 percent cheaper than the 12.8 times 2014 sales that Facebook Inc. trades at, and 31 percent lower than LinkedIn Corp.’s multiple of 13.2 times sales, the data show.

The company’s top shareholders are keeping their shares, and after the offering co-founder Evan Williams will hold more than a 10 percent stake, the filing shows. He’s the single-biggest individual stockholder. Affiliates of Rizvi Traverse Management LLC will hold almost a 16 percent stake valued at $1.7 billion.

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