Twitter Stock’s Fall Isn’t Over, Analysts Warn
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Twitter Stock’s Fall Isn’t Over, Analysts Warn

How much more could it tumble?

By Eric J. Savitz
Tue, Jul 12, 2022 2:51pmGrey Clock 3 min

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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Cocoa and Coffee Prices Have Surged. Climate Change Will Only Take Them Higher.

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Cultivating cocoa and coffee requires very specific temperature, water and soil conditions. Now, more frequent heat waves, heavy rainfalls and droughts are damaging harvests and crippling supplies amid ever growing demand from customers worldwide.

“Adverse weather conditions, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, have played an important role in sending several food commodities sharply higher,” said Ole Hansen , head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

The spikes in prices are a threat to coffee and chocolate makers across the globe.

Swiss consumer-goods giant Nestlé was able to pass only a fraction of the cocoa price increase to customers last year, and it may need to adjust pricing in the future due to persistently high prices, a spokesperson said.

Italian coffee maker Lavazza reported revenue of more than $3 billion for last year, but said profitability was hit by soaring coffee bean prices, particularly for green and Robusta coffee, and its decision to limit price increases.

Likewise, chocolatier Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli said in its 2023 results that weather and climate conditions played a major role in the global shortage of cocoa beans that led to historically high prices. The company had to lift the sales prices of its products and said it would need to further raise them this year and next if cocoa prices remain at current levels.

Hershey ’s chief executive, Michele Buck , said in February that historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year, and that the company plans to use “every tool in its toolbox,” including price hikes, to manage the impact on business.

In West Africa, where about 70% of global cocoa is produced, powerhouses Ivory Coast and Ghana are facing catastrophic harvests this season as El Niño—the pattern of above-average sea surface temperatures—led to unseasonal heavy rainfalls followed by strong heat waves.

Extreme heat has weakened cocoa trees already damaged from heavy rainfall at the end of last year, according to Morningstar DBRS’s Aarti Magan and Moritz Steinbauer. The rain also worsened road conditions, disrupting cocoa bean deliveries to export ports.

The International Cocoa Organization—a global body composed of cocoa producing and consuming member countries—said in its latest monthly report that it expects the global supply deficit to widen to 374,000 metric tons in the 2023-24 season, from 74,000 tons last season. Global cocoa supply is anticipated to decline by almost 11% to 4.449 million tons when compared with 2022-23.

“Significant declines in production are expected from the top producing countries as they are envisaged to feel the detrimental effect of unfavorable weather conditions and diseases,” the organization said.

While the effects of climate change are severe, other serious structural issues are also hitting West African cocoa production in the short- to medium-term. Illegal mining poses a significant threat to cocoa farms in Ghana, destroying arable land and poisoning water supplies, and the problem is becoming increasingly relevant in the Ivory Coast, according to BMI.

The issues are being magnified by deforestation carried out to increase cocoa production. Since 1950, Ivory Coast has lost around 90% of its forests, while Ghana has lost around 65% over the same period. This has driven farmers to areas less suited to cocoa cultivation like grasslands, increasing the amount of labor required and bringing further downside risks to the harvest, the research firm said.

The Ivory Coast’s cocoa mid-crop harvest—which officially starts in April and runs until September—is expected to fall to 400,000-500,000 tons from 600,000-620,000 tons last year, with weather expected to play a crucial role in shaping the market balance for the season, ING analysts said, citing estimates from the country’s cocoa regulator. Ghana’s cocoa board also forecasts a slump in the harvest for this season to as low as 422,500 tons, the poorest in more than 20 years, according to BMI.

Neither regulator responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, extreme droughts in Southeast Asia—particularly in Vietnam and Indonesia—are resulting in lower coffee bean harvests, hurting producers’ output and global exports. Coffee inventories have recovered somewhat in recent weeks but remain low in recent historical terms. Robusta coffee has seen a severe deterioration in export expectations, while Arabica coffee is expected to return to a relatively narrow surplus this year, said Charles Hart, senior commodities analyst at BMI.

The global coffee benchmark prices, London Robusta futures, are up by 15% on-month to $3,825 a ton. Arabica coffee prices have also surged 17% over the last month to $2.16 a pound in lockstep with Robusta—its highest level since October 2022. Cocoa prices have more than tripled on-year over these supply crunch fears, and risen 49% in the last month alone to $10,050 a ton.

“Cocoa trees are particularly sensitive to weather and require very specific conditions to grow, this means that cocoa prices are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as drought and periods of intense heat, as well as the longer-term impact of climate change,” said Lucrezia Cogliati, associate commodities analyst at BMI.

Cogliati said global cocoa consumption is expected to outpace production for the third consecutive season, with intense seasonal West African winds and plant diseases contributing to significant declines.

Consumers hoping for a return to cheaper prices for life’s little luxuries in the midterm may also be in for a bitter surprise.

“There is no sugarcoating it—consumers will ultimately be faced with higher chocolate prices, products that contain less chocolate, and/or shrinking product sizes,” Morningstar’s Magan and Steinbauer said in a report.

“We anticipate consumers could respond by searching widely for promotional discounts, trading down to value-based chocolate and confectionary products from premium products, switching to private-label from branded products and/or reducing volumes altogether.”

The record-breaking rally for cocoa and coffee is likely more than just a flash in the pan, according to Citi analysts, as adverse weather conditions and strong demand trends are likely to support prices in the months ahead. The U.S. bank estimates Arabica coffee futures in a range of $1.88-$2.15 a pound for the current year, but said projections could be lifted if the outlook for 2024-25 tightens further.

At the heart of it all, climate change is set to play a major role, as the impact of extreme weather events could exacerbate the pressure on cocoa and coffee supplies, according to market watchers.

“I don’t expect prices to remain at these levels, but if we continue to see more unusual weather as a result of global warming then we certainly could see more volatility in terms of cocoa yields going forward, which could impact pricing,” said Paul Joules, commodities analyst at Rabobank.

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