Twitter formally files for IPO, seeks $1 billion

The popular seven-year-old social networking company files for an initial public offering, revealing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
"Back to work," the company tweeted, just after it filed its paperwork with the U.S. government.
Image: Twitter

The San Francisco-based social network Twitter formally filed paperwork today with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a public offering of its shares totaling $1 billion.

The news comes just shy of a month after the company first revealed its intention to go public and less than two years after its larger peer Facebook did the same to eventual success.

In an S-1 filing, the microblogging company claimed it now has, on average, more than 218 million active users per month and more than 100 million per day. That's a 44 percent increase from last year.

Its namesake platform is best known for the real-time, 140-character messages that serve as a customizable stream of information for its users. More than 500 million tweets are published per day, and the company has been able to capitalize on major media moments—from U.S. president Barack Obama claiming reelection victory to an enabling role in the "Arab Spring" that swept across the Middle East and northern Africa in 2010—to help fuel its explosive growth.

"Our platform has been used for charitable campaigns, disaster relief efforts, bearing witness to history, communicating with elected officials, political movements, responding to fans, empathizing with one another, parody as social commentary, product announcements and live play-by-play of sporting events," the company wrote in its filiing.

In the document, Twitter revealed annual revenues of $316.9 million, an increase of nearly 200 percent between 2011 and 2012. The company has yet to turn a profit; about 2,000 people work at Twitter full-time.

"We have incurred significant operating losses in the past, and we may not be able to achieve or subsequently maintain profitability," the filing read. On June 30, Twitter's deficit stood at $418.6 million.

In the filing, Twitter revealed increasing investment in research and development, from $29.3 million in 2010 to $119 million in 2012. It also increased its marketing spend considerably, from $6.3 million in 2010 to $86.5 million in 2012.

The company pegged its value at $20.62 per share as of August 5. 

In the filing, the company gave no indication as to which stock exchange it would prefer to be listed on, though it did propose a symbol: TWTR. Historically, technology companies seek listings on the NASDAQ exchange, though that exchange was widely criticized for botching Facebook's initial public offering in May 2012.

In the ramp up to a public offering, Twitter has been working to shore up its business model. In 2010, it launched a "Promoted Tweets" product—soon followed by "Promoted Accounts" and "Promoted Trends"—in a bid to become a dominant channel for advertisers. 

"Advertisers use our Promoted Products, the majority of which are pay-for-performance, to promote their brands, products and services, amplify their visibility and reach, and complement and extend the conversation around their advertising campaigns," the company wrote. "We enable our advertisers to target an audience based on a variety of factors, including a user's Interest Graph"

Twitter also acquired a number of small companies, most recently MoPub, which claims to be the "world's largest mobile ad server" and reportedly cost the company some $350 million.

"We plan to invest to grow MoPub's current business, including by extending advertising across the mobile ecosystem through the MoPub exchange," the company wrote. "We also plan to use MoPub's technology to build real-time bidding into the Twitter ads platform so that our advertisers can more easily automate and scale their advertising purchases."

It also sees value in its database.

"We offer data licenses that allow our data partners to access, search and analyze historical and real-time data on our platform," the company wrote. "Our data partners use this data to generate and monetize data analytics, from which data partners can identify user sentiment, influence and other trends."

Rachel King and Andrew Nusca contributed to this report.

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