LIVE: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks

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LIVE: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks

Posted on: February 12th, 2015 by tommyj

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(Photo: Michael Kovac, Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

SAN FRANCISCO — On Wednesday Dick Costolo is addressing investors who have questioned whether he’s the right leader for Twitter.

Critics have accused Twitter’s CEO of poor execution and a murky vision. They have voiced growing concerns over management churn and slowing user growth.

Calls for Costolo to step down escalated in recent months with Jim Cramer, host of the CNBC show Mad Money, leading the charge, saying Twitter (TICKER: TWTR) was in an "ABC situation" as in "Anybody But Costolo."

The threat of activist investors jumping into the fray prompted Twitter’s founders and board members to publicly express their support of Costolo.

Costolo’s reprieve came last week in the form of the company’s fourth-quarter performance which — at least for now — has silenced critics.

Twitter reported it grew revenue 97% to $479 million, easily surpassing analyst expectations of $453 million.

The San Francisco company reported a loss of $125 million, or 20 cents a share. But excluding stock-based compensation and other expenses, the company reported a profit of $79 million, or 12 cents a share.

Investors seemed to like what they heard from Costolo, who outlined his plan to grow Twitter’s user base and make money of people even if they are not logged into the service.

Giving Costolo another boost: The fourth-quarter earnings report came on the heels of two announcements, that Twitter would now "syndicate" tweets elsewhere on the Web and in other mobile apps and that tweets would once again be included in Google search results.

UBS analyst Eric Sheridan called the quarter "#OneStepForward and said it would likely cause "a flip of sentiment from glass half-empty to half-full."

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Robert Peck is predicting that Twitter may be on the verge of a "Facebook moment," that point in 2013 when investors’ assessment of Facebook turned positive, sending its shares higher.

Still, the fourth quarter also reminded investors of a major challenge for Twitter.

Twitter had 288 million users at the end of 2014, an increase of just four million people from the previous quarter and a significant miss from analysts’ already reduced expectations.

Costolo bought himself some time by telling investors that he expects user growth numbers to bounce back by the end of the first quarter.

"In our view, a continued set of reports that quiet the user debate and demonstrate sustainable revenue strength and margin leverage, along with well-received product launches, will all act as catalysts to drive shares higher in 2015," Sheridan of UBS said.

But, Sheridan added, "we believe Twitter has only started to climb the wall of worry."

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