Less than picture perfect: Snap slumps on slowing user growth

(Reuters) - Snap Inc shares plunged as much as 23.5 percent on Thursday after the owner of the wildly popular Snapchat app’s user growth and revenue numbers failed to show that it was adequately dealing with rising competition from Facebook.

Snap, which calls itself a camera company, posted its debut quarterly scorecard following its hugely successful IPO in March, reporting slowing user growth and widely missing Wall Street’s revenue expectations.

Snap shares plunged to $17.59, their lowest since the initial public offering on March 2, wiping off more than $6 billion of its market value. The stock had debuted at $17.

“The 7 million daily active users net-adds were not strong enough to disprove the ‘Facebook is crushing Snapchat’ thesis,” which we think will persist for a while,” Barclays analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a client note.

Analysts, including Sandler, on Thursday revised their expectations for the stock with at least nine brokerages lowering their price targets. The median price target on the stock is $24.

Currently, 12 of the 35 brokerages covering the stock rate it “buy” or higher. Sixteen have “hold” ratings and seven rate it “sell” or lower.

Facebook Inc had also plunged after posting results for the first time in 2012, but has since ensconced itself as a Wall Street darling by transforming the company into an advertising giant.

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Shares of Twitter Inc, which competes with Snap and had 328 million average monthly active users in the latest quarter, had also tumbled 24 percent after its first quarterly report.


Snapchat is battling Facebook for users on multiple fronts.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, has more than 200 million people a day using its Stories while WhatsApp Status, launched in February, has more than 175 million daily active users.

Both applications mimic Snapchat, allowing users to post a string of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.

Facebook also allows users to tweak photos on their smartphones with visual details like a rainbow or a beard of glitter, also similar to Snapchat.

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Facebook itself had some 1.94 billion people using its service monthly as of March 31.

Snap’s daily active users (DAUs), on the other hand, rose 36.1 percent to 166 million in the first quarter from a year earlier, marking a slowdown from the 47.7 percent rise for the fourth quarter and 62.8 percent jump for the third quarter.

Questions about Snap’s ability to monetize its product - a hit with millennials - remained as well.

Average revenue per user (ARPU) was 90 cents in the first quarter, up from 32 cents the same quarter a year earlier, but below the $1.05 per user in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“Snap came to the public markets just as its user and monetization growth were both starting to meaningfully slow. It now faces incrementally fierce competition from deeper-pocketed rivals including Facebook,” Instinet LLC analyst Anthony DiClemente said.

(In paragraph 16, corrects Snapchat’s year-ago ARPU to 32 cents from 33 cents)

Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh