Twitter netted 6 million new daily active users in the fourth quarter of 2021, a bit lighter than analyst forecasts, and fell just short of Wall Street earnings estimates. The social network reported only “modest” impact from Apple’s iOS privacy changes.
Twitter shares closed down 2% for the day after reporting Q4 earnings, amid a broader market decline. The company also reaffirmed aggressive user and revenue growth targets for 2023 and announced a $4 billion stock buyback program.
Q4 revenue was $1.57 billion, up 22% year over year, driven by “ongoing revenue product improvements, solid sales execution, and a broad, continued increase in advertiser demand,” the company said. The revenue impact associated with Apple’s iOS changes to require user opt-in for ad tracking in Q4 “remained modest,” Twitter said, and is expected to have “an ongoing modest impact,” which is incorporated into Q1 guidance.
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Twitter’s indication that Apple’s privacy changes are causing minimal disruption stands in contrast to the warning from Meta (Facebook’s parent company), which said it anticipates a bigger impact on Q1 revenue growth from the iOS changes. That contributed to a historic drop in Meta’s market capitalization.
Twitter posted net income of $182 million in Q4, down 18%, as operating costs jumped 35% with an increase in hiring and investment in infrastructure and marketing spending. That represented a net margin of 12% and adjusted earnings per share of 33 cents. Wall Street analysts on average expected revenue of $1.58 billion and adjusted EPS of 35 cents, per Refinitiv.
For the last three months of 2021, Twitter’s average monetizable daily active users (mDAU) worldwide reached 217 million, up 6 million sequentially and an increase of 13% year over year. Daily active users in the U.S. inched up about 1 million, to 38 million mDAU in the year-end quarter.
In announcing Q4 results, Twitter reaffirmed its long-term 2023 goals, which include hitting at least 315M mDAU in Q4 2023 and $7.5 billion in full-year revenue for ’23.
In addition, the company announced that Twitter’s board of directors approved a new $4 billion share buyback program. “We intend to enter into a $2 billion accelerated share repurchase (ASR) and repurchase the remaining $2 billion over time,” Twitter said.
The Q4 earnings report is the first under new CEO Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s former CTO who took the reins after Jack Dorsey, who co-founded Twitter in 2006, announced his resignation from the social media company in November.
“Our strong 2021 performance positions us to improve execution and deliver on our 2023 goals,” Agrawal said in announcing the results. “We are more focused and better organized to deliver improved personalization and selection for our audience, partners and advertisers.”
On the earnings call, Agrawal said Twitter believes it can hit the 2023 mDAU target based on various indicators, including an annual increase in 2021 of more than 25% in the number of people who come to Twitter daily to either create a new account or reactivate an existing account (after at least 30 days off the service).
For full-year 2022, Twitter expects revenue to grow in the “low-to-mid 20% range” (excluding MoPub, the in-app advertising division it sold for $1 billion in a deal that closed last month), with performance-based ad revenue growing faster than brand advertising.
Twitter’s guidance for Q1 2022 is for total revenue to be between $1.17 billion and $1.27 billion and GAAP operating loss to be $225 million-$175 million.
“The impact of [Apple’s App Tracking Transparency] is likely to vary across ad platforms given the unique mix of ad formats, signal, and remediations on each, as well as other factors,” Twitter said in its shareholder letter. “Although retooling our revenue products in light of Apple’s privacy-related iOS changes took additional time, energy, and resources in 2020 and 2021, we believe that our product improvements have helped reduce the impact on Twitter.”
In 2021, Twitter expanded its workforce by about 2,000 employees, up 35%, to end the year with more than 7,500 employees concentrated in engineering, product, design and research.