Feb 072014
 
the emotions of investment bubbles

Last week Facebook’s stock soared after the company reported better than expected earnings on its advertising services.

It seemed that the social media sites had finally cracked the code on how to make money out of their billions of enthusiastic users.

This week sees a different story as both Twitter and LinkedIn disappointed investors with missed revenues targets in their quarterly earnings reports.

Twitter’s blues

For Twitter the market reaction was merciless – the stock price dropped 24% – as a $500 million loss in it’s first quarter of trading on the stock market is not a good look.

In Twitter’s defense, all of that loss was due to the cost of acquisitions being booked by the company. In 2013 the social media site spent over $500 million buying out various advertising, curation and and analytics services.

The question now for Twitter is whether they can weld together a profitable platform from the collections of businesses they’ve acquired and start delivering a return to investors.

A miss for LinkedIn

LinkedIn has a similar bent towards acquisitions having announced its purchase of data analytics company Bright on the same day as its disappointing results, however the company’s undershooting expectations was because of lower than expected revenues.

‘Disappointing’ is an interesting word in the context of LinkedIn as revenues were up 47% over the previous year.

What possibly should have been more concerning for analysts than the headline revenue number are Linkedin’s soaring costs of doing business – both sales & marketing and product development costs were up 50% year on year – which cut profits by over two thirds.

The most worrying part of LinkedIn’s earnings miss is the company’s price to earnings ratio. Currently the stock trades at an eye-watering P/E of 1,000 which implies investors are expecting a lot more revenue into the business.

Over-inflated expectations

It’s hard to argue that social media stocks aren’t in a bubble with those multiples. Even Facebook trades a hefty one hundred times earnings despite its improved revenues.

Perhaps the simple fact is we’re expecting too much from social media services; they are good businesses, but maybe they’ll never be the fantastic profit machines that Apple, Google or Microsoft have been.

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