With a huge price surge driven in part by strong results from Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), the market value of Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) has pressed above those of Target Corp. (NASDAQ: TGT), the nation’s second largest retailer, and CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS), one of America’s largest media companies. So, with the recent increase in its market capitalization, Twitter, soon to report earnings, has to bear the burden of a promise that it may be unable to deliver.
Keep in mind that even if Twitter’s revenue doubles in 2014, a possibility based on its current growth rate, sales will only reach $1.4 billion. The company lost $65 million in the third quarter, on revenue of $165 million. The social network has almost 250 million users, less than a quarter of the number that Facebook has.
Twitter has been unable to convince most of Wall Street that advertisers will have much to do with it. Marketers can sponsor Tweets, but the revenue this has driven is tiny. Advertisers may believe that the lengths of the messages they can deliver are too short. Twitter has gained notoriety as a gathering place for celebrities, and more recently prostitutes. However, fame does not necessary translate into revenue.
With nearly the same market cap as Twitter, CBS posted revenue of $3.6 billion in the third quarter. Net income from continuing operations was $469 million. Among people who visit Internet websites, CBS properties had 76 million unique visitors from desktop computers in the United States in December, based on data from comScore. That placed it ninth among all Web businesses. Twitter, by comparable measure, had 39.7 million. The case for Twitter’s value is that it eventually will become larger and much more profitable than CBS.
Target had 37.6 million visitors to its sites last month from desktops. Among retailers, that puts it second only to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) at 53.1 million. Like most large retailers, Target operates on slim margins, and e-commerce threatens its brick-and-mortar business. However, its revenue will be nearly $75 billion this year, and its net income $5.5 billion.
Twitter, which can barely show it is a real business, has a long way to go as it tries to prove it is really worth $35 billion.