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Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

Twitter reported stronger than expected user growth in what could be its last quarter as a public company after agreeing to a $44bn buyout by billionaire Elon Musk.

But the social media platform also said  an internal error resulted in the company overstating quarterly user numbers by about 1.5-million between the fourth quarter of 2020 to the end of 2021. The company said it also overstated the figures in 2019, but was unable to provide data.

Overall revenue and advertising sales fell short of analyst estimates, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Shares rose 1% in early trading.

The results lay out Musk’s challenges in improving the social media platform’s business to match its influence on news and culture.

Twitter has long faced criticism for its sluggish pace of product launches. Musk has tweeted suggestions ranging from releasing a widely demanded edit button to making the Twitter algorithm open-source.

When Musk closes the deal, he will be overseeing a company that has had long-standing struggles with internal dysfunction, indecision and lack of accountability, Reuters previously reported according to eight current and former Twitter employees.

Daily active users on Twitter rose to 229-million in the first quarter ended March 31, from 199-million a year earlier. The figure beat analyst expectations of 226.8-million daily active users.

Facebook owner Meta Platforms also reported a return to user growth on Wednesday, which helped propel social media stocks higher.

Given the pending acquisition, Twitter said it would not provide any forward looking guidance and was withdrawing all previous goals and outlook. The company last year announced it aimed to double annual revenue and grow to 315-million users by 2023, as former CEO Jack Dorsey aimed to signal a reset on years of product stagnation.

Total revenue in the first quarter was $1.2bn, compared with analysts' average estimate of $1.23bn, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company earns the majority of its revenue from selling digital ads on the website and app. Twitter paused ads in Ukraine and Russia in February amid the ongoing invasion.

“The macro environment is becoming hostile with advertisers curbing their spending as they deal with inflation, which is running at a four-decade high,” said Haris Anwar, senior analyst at Investing.com.

Musk has said that Twitter should not serve advertising, which would allow the platform to have more control over its content policies. Advertisers generally prefer strong content moderation, to help prevent their brand from appearing next to unsuitable content.

Its net income rose to $513.3m, or 61c per share, from $68m, 8c per share, a year earlier.

Reuters 

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