Twitter is all set to launch its initial public offering today, in the biggest tech IPO since Facebook began offering stock for sale last May. Here's what you need to know.
First the nuts and bolts: The initial price for a single share of Twitter stock will be set $26, and the company is offering 70 million shares at the open. However, the actual "opening" could be much higher, depending on what investors are actually willing to pay once trading begins. (Update: The stock opened around 10:45 a.m. at $45.10, almost 60 percent higher than offering price. It briefly surged above $60, but is currently hovering near the opening.) The stock will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol TWTR.
If those numbers hold, the company stands to raise a little over $1.8 billion from the offering, putting its overall valuation at around $18.1 billion. Underwriters could also offer 10.5 million more shares if they decided to release them, meaning that the company could raise a total of $2.1 billion.
Whether or not Twitter is actually worthy of that valuation is still up for debate, however. The reason for investor excitement, according to Business Insider's Henry Blodget (a former tech stock analyst himself), comes from Twitter's status as a not-yet fully matured company. When Facebook began trading last year, its stock initially foundered, but that company had already begun to decelerate in terms of revenue growth — whereas Twitter's expectation that it won't be profitable until 2015 means a bigger risk that also offers bigger rewards, margin-wise.
Twitter is also pitching its early success on mobile devices, where it pulls 70 percent of its ad revenue from, as the future of media consumption.
However, that big revenue doesn't exist yet, and is not guaranteed, which is why many investors are staying away from the IPO. A group of 15 financial advisors polled by CNBC all said that they were not advising clients to buy stock, though that has more to do with a general avoidance of I.P.O.s than with Twitter specifically. Others simply think the company, which has never turned a profit, just isn't worth that much. One adviser told Bloomberg that, "When you look at valuations and look at the lack of earnings and revenue, it seems to me much like the dot-com bubble."
Others pointed to the service's learning curve as a point of caution. The New York Times supplied this example of how the service can seem impenetrable to new users, limiting its ability to grow:
Translation: The last Off the Grid food truck gathering will be at Fort Mason on Friday, KronnerBurger will have a pop-up burger joint at the Mill Cafe on Saturday, the Spruce restaurant will begin a new brunch service on Sunday, and more information about all of that is available on Eater’s San Francisco restaurant news page.
To Twitter evangelists, however, like Nick Bilton (who literally just wrote the book on it) and Reuters blogger Felix Salmon, Twitter's real value can't be measured in stock quotes and revenue reports. It's a service they use and love, and that's enough to make it worthwhile. (Even much of the actual business world has bigger things to worry about.)
As for who stands to get rich off the offering? More than 80 percent of the company's stock will still be controlled by the founders, employees, and early investors. Jack Dorsey, the former CEO and now Chairman, stands to make about $610 million from his 4.3 percent stake in the company. Current CEO Dick Costolo stands to make around $200 million from his 1.4 percent stake. Check out this ChartGirl (Hilary Sargent) chart for a deeper break down of the biggest winners and losers.
What happens after the sale begins is anyone's guess. Charlie Gasparino of Fox Business News says his sources are predicting a massive explosion in demand that could double or triple the price by the end of the day. Or could we see another first-day disaster like Facebook's, when underwriting banks struggled mightily to keep the stock from plummeting below its opening price? Either way, you'll be able to read all about it on Twitter.