Is Twitter on the Way Back to a $40 Billion Value Again?

Social media is considered to be a love for some and a hatred for others. Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) has recovered handily from its post-IPO lows, and now the stock has been started as Buy with a whopping $65 price target at Jefferies. How should investors really view this key analyst note?

Twitter shares were up only about 0.5% in late Wednesday trading after having been up 2% earlier in the day. The reason for this tempering of enthusiasm may simply be the realization over what the upgrade means in real dollar terms. With shares trading at $50.08 before the Buy rating, the consensus analyst price target is only a tad higher at $53.83. That $65 price target also compares to the street-high analyst target of $67 for the social media player.

So, what is Jefferies looking for with such a large upside call?

The firm’s view is that Twitter will win from online video and mobile ads. Currently, 90% of revenues are from ads. Jefferies cited its ability to go attack a larger piece of a $17 billion total market opportunity — with TV budgets migrating to online video.

Product improvements are expected to also increase use and user engagement. Periscope is one such effort, as are other improvements underway and ahead.

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A third point is that Twitter’s reach should expand beyond its own platform. What this means is syndication and also search engine queries and private sharing activities. The point made was that a half-billion logged-out users are still consuming Twitter content, with another 700 million seeing Twitter content under outside syndication each month.

The last issue cited by Jefferies is better relations with and better results from app developers. This is a small part of revenues now, but Jefferies thinks this can grow rapidly ahead.

Investors will want to know what a $65 target really means. At $50.25, Twitter’s market cap is $32 billion. The nearly 30% implied upside would translate to a future market cap of more than $41 billion. Analysts have consensus earnings estimates of $0.38 per share for 2015 and $0.81 per share for 2016 — valued at 131 times 2015 and 61 times 2016 earnings.

Revenues are expected to be almost $2.4 billion in 2015 and to be $3.62 billion in 2016. That translates to 13 times expected 2015 revenue and almost nine times expected 2016 revenues. Those are before accounting for the 30% higher expected valuation.

The long and short of the matter is that Jefferies could easily be right about its expectations where Twitter can improve and where it is improving. One problem that investors are having is that Twitter no longer has any of its post-IPO hype — and investors today are buying the earnings flow on a constant 2015 basis out to nearly the year of 2150, and they are paying up for the constant-level sales out to the year 2028. Those are of course arbitrary numbers, but growth is already slowing at Twitter, even if it is still high growth.

With shares at $50.25, Twitter’s 52-week trading range is $29.51 to $55.99.

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