Twitter Stock’s Fall Isn’t Over, Analysts Warn
How much more could it tumble?
How much more could it tumble?
Now that Elon Musk has decided he would rather not own Twitter, Wall Street is scrambling to think through what happens from here, and what the company might be worth on a stand-alone basis.
Twitter shares plunged 11.3% on the news Monday, but still seemed priced to reflect the possibility a deal will still happen at a lower price. If there is no sale, Twitter stock could tumble another 30% from here, analysts say.
In a letter disclosed in an SEC filing late Friday afternoon, attorneys for Musk said that he is terminating his $54.20-a-share deal to buy Twitter (ticker: TWTR), asserting that the company breached the terms of their agreement by not fully disclosing details relating to the use of fake accounts on the site. Twitter denies withholding this information, and said that it will file suit to force Musk to complete the deal.
Twitter closed Monday at $32.65 a share, well below the bid price, but arguably still well above the company’s intrinsic value. Most Street analysts seem to think that Twitter as an independent company with no acquisition potential based on the current outlook would trade in the $25 to $30 a share range.
Keep in mind that 2022 has been a terrible year for social media stocks. While Twitter is off 23% for the year to date, that is a relatively modest decline compared with Pinterest (PINS), off 49%; Meta (META), off 51%; and Snap (SNAP), down 70%.
MKM Partners analyst Rohit Kulkarni notes that Snap, Pinterest and Meta are all trading at all-time low multiples of forward Ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Twitter, he notes, is trading at about 16 times, but troughed at 12 times at the March 2020 low, and previously dropped to 9 times in April 2016. Put a low-teens multiple of Ebitda on the stock, he says, and the shares would be in the $24 to $26 range. Other analysts draw the same conclusion.
There are differences of opinion on the Street about what happens from here, but they mostly fall into two camps.
A few analysts think the deal gets renegotiated at a lower price. Benchmark analyst Mark Zgutowicz asserts that US$37 would be a “good compromise,” and that a deal at that level would be in the best interest of shareholders. “We suspect neither party wants a long, drawn-out legal battle, and Twitter’s board must contemplate the potential harm to its employee and shareholder base of any additional internal data exposed in litigation. We do believe Elon Musk ultimately wants to run Twitter and believe the best course of action for both parties is a compromise.”
Mizuho analyst James Lee likewise asserts that “the most reasonable scenario” would be to negotiate a deal at a lower price, or a settlement that allows Musk to walk away, avoiding protracted litigation.
Others think Twitter is going to have to go it alone: CFRA analyst Angelo Zinino agrees that a settlement or revised offer would be the best-case scenario for both sides, but he also thinks Twitter would have a hard time accepting a price reduction large enough to satisfy Musk.
His view that the most likely scenario is that Twitter stays independent. But Zinino warns that the company faces a difficult advertising market for the second half and into 2023, and he also sees risk that the company could see a huge talent drain as doubts grow about the company’s future.
“With Musk officially walking away from the deal, we think Twitter’s business prospects and stock valuation are in a precarious situation,” Zinino writes. “We see risks from an uncertain advertising market, a damaged employee base, and concerns about the status of fake accounts/strategic direction as a stand-alone company.”
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives says the situation is a “nightmare” for Twitter, that results in an “Everest-like” uphill climb “to navigate the myriad of challenges ahead,” including employee turnover, advertising headwinds, and investor worries around the fake account issues, among other things.
JMP Securities analyst Andrew Boone asserts that his gut reaction is that Musk no longer wants to own Twitter, with macro conditions worsening and growing employee attrition. Boone writes in a research note that he “increasingly” thinks Twitter’s future will be to remain independent.
Other scenarios are possible. Conceivably, with the stock down sharply, an alternative bidder could emerge, though none has surfaced so far, and there are no obvious buyers.
It’s also possible that negotiations fail, resulting in protracted litigation, in which either Musk wins, and walks away from the deal, or Musk loses, and gets stuck paying the original price. In either litigation scenario, you can imagine endless appeals that could drag on for eons.
Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 11, 2022.
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Food prices continue to rise at a rapid pace, surprising central banks and pressuring debt-laden governments
LONDON—Fresh out of an energy crisis, Europeans are facing a food-price explosion that is changing diets and forcing consumers across the region to tighten their belts—literally.
This is happening even though inflation as a whole is falling thanks to lower energy prices, presenting a new policy challenge for governments that deployed billions in aid last year to keep businesses and households afloat through the worst energy crisis in decades.
New data on Wednesday showed inflation in the U.K. fell sharply in April as energy prices cooled, following a similar pattern around Europe and in the U.S. But food prices were 19.3% higher than a year earlier.
The continued surge in food prices has caught central bankers off guard and pressured governments that are still reeling from the cost of last year’s emergency support to come to the rescue. And it is pressuring household budgets that are also under strain from rising borrowing costs.
In France, households have cut their food purchases by more than 10% since the invasion of Ukraine, while their purchases of energy have fallen by 4.8%.
In Germany, sales of food fell 1.1% in March from the previous month, and were down 10.3% from a year earlier, the largest drop since records began in 1994. According to the Federal Information Centre for Agriculture, meat consumption was lower in 2022 than at any time since records began in 1989, although it said that might partly reflect a continuing shift toward more plant-based diets.
Food retailers’ profit margins have contracted because they can’t pass on the entire price increases from their suppliers to their customers. Markus Mosa, chief executive of the Edeka supermarket chain, told German media that the company had stopped ordering products from several large suppliers because of rocketing prices.
A survey by the U.K.’s statistics agency earlier this month found that almost three-fifths of the poorest 20% of households were cutting back on food purchases.
“This is an access problem,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at insurer Allianz, who previously worked at the United Nations World Food Program. “Total food production has not plummeted. This is an entitlement crisis.”
Food accounts for a much larger share of consumer spending than energy, so a smaller rise in prices has a greater impact on budgets. The U.K.’s Resolution Foundation estimates that by the summer, the cumulative rise in food bills since 2020 will have amounted to 28 billion pounds, equivalent to $34.76 billion, outstripping the rise in energy bills, estimated at £25 billion.
“The cost of living crisis isn’t ending, it is just entering a new phase,” Torsten Bell, the research group’s chief executive, wrote in a recent report.
Food isn’t the only driver of inflation. In the U.K., the core rate of inflation—which excludes food and energy—rose to 6.8% in April from 6.2% in March, its highest level since 1992. Core inflation was close to its record high in the eurozone during the same month.
Still, Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey told lawmakers Tuesday that food prices now constitute a “fourth shock” to inflation after the bottlenecks that jammed supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise in energy prices that accompanied Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and surprisingly tight labor markets.
Europe’s governments spent heavily on supporting households as energy prices soared. Now they have less room to borrow given the surge in debt since the pandemic struck in 2020.
Some governments—including those of Italy, Spain and Portugal—have cut sales taxes on food products to ease the burden on consumers. Others are leaning on food retailers to keep their prices in check. In March, the French government negotiated an agreement with leading retailers to refrain from price rises if it is possible to do so.
Retailers have also come under scrutiny in Ireland and a number of other European countries. In the U.K., lawmakers have launched an investigation into the entire food supply chain “from farm to fork.”
“Yesterday I had the food producers into Downing Street, and we’ve also been talking to the supermarkets, to the farmers, looking at every element of the supply chain and what we can do to pass on some of the reduction in costs that are coming through to consumers as fast as possible,” U.K. Treasury Chief Jeremy Hunt said during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London.
The government’s Competition and Markets Authority last week said it would take a closer look at retailers.
“Given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are stepping up our work in the grocery sector to help ensure competition is working well,” said Sarah Cardell, who heads the CMA.
Some economists expect that added scrutiny to yield concrete results, assuming retailers won’t want to tarnish their image and will lean on their suppliers to keep prices down.
“With supermarkets now more heavily under the political spotlight, we think it more likely that price momentum in the food basket slows,” said Sanjay Raja, an economist at Deutsche Bank.
It isn’t entirely clear why food prices have risen so fast for so long. In world commodity markets, which set the prices received by farmers, food prices have been falling since April 2022. But raw commodity costs are just one part of the final price. Consumers are also paying for processing, packaging, transport and distribution, and the size of the gap between the farm and the dining table is unusually wide.
The BOE’s Bailey thinks one reason for the bank having misjudged food prices is that food producers entered into longer-term but relatively expensive contracts with fertilizer, energy and other suppliers around the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in their eagerness to guarantee availability at a time of uncertainty.
But as the pressures being placed on retailers suggest, some policy makers suspect that an increase in profit margins may also have played a role. Speaking to lawmakers, Bailey was wary of placing any blame on food suppliers.
“It’s a story about rebuilding margins that were squeezed in the early part of last year,” he said.
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