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The Almighty Buck Businesses Twitter

How One Tweet Wiped $8bn Off Twitter's Value 185

An anonymous reader writes: Someone mistakenly published earnings information on a Nasdaq-run investor relations page for Twitter before the company officially released the news and it sent the stock into a tailspin. Initially the earnings statement went unnoticed, but soon a Tweet with the results got a lot of attention. The stock lost more than $8 billion at one point as news spread. "We asked the New York Stock Exchange to halt trading once we discovered our Q1 numbers were out, and we published our results as soon as possible thereafter," said Twitter's senior director for investor relations, Krista Bessinger. "Selerity, who provided the initial tweets with our results, informed us that earnings release was available on our Investor Relations site before the close of market. Nasdaq hosts and manages our IR website, and we explicitly instructed them not to release our results until after the market close and only upon our specific instructions, which is consistent with prior quarters. We are continuing to investigate with them exactly what occurred."
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How One Tweet Wiped $8bn Off Twitter's Value

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:13PM (#49580197)

    How is something as useless and stupid as Twitter be worth more than $8bn in the first place?

    • by qeveren ( 318805 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:16PM (#49580221)

      Value is entirely based on perception.

      • Twisted perception (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:20PM (#49580265) Journal

        Value is entirely based on perception

        ... which is often biased and/or twisted

        • by zlives ( 2009072 )

          free market or faith based market system?

          • The current version of free market is faith based. You have faith in fiat currency, just to start with.

            • by MrBigInThePants ( 624986 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @05:01PM (#49580963)
              All currencies are Fiat.

              Just because you back one thing of perceived value with another thing of perceived value does not make it less than arbitrary.
              Although I will agree backing it with gold makes it "less arbitrary" it is still arbitrary. Not that this is possible anyway since moving a large economy to this would cause a disaster scenario in the price of gold and there is not enough gold for this anyway.
      • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:36PM (#49580377)

        True, but perception can be misleading. At one point in the late eighties the paper value of the real estate of the Tokyo Imperial Palace alone was perceived to be worth more than the entire land mass of California. Tokyo real estate prices peaked at about 350 times that of choice Manhattan real estate at the time. The bubble burst when, among other reasons, people realized although such was the value on paper, no one could actually sell at that price and receive anything near the current "market value".

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          people realized although such was the value on paper, no one could actually sell at that price and receive anything near the current "market value".

          I keep telling people we need our high-interest-rate market back because it'll force home prices down. Home prices go up when interest rates go down, because people are still buying the same houses for $1200/mo; the difference is whether it's a $120k house or a $350k house that you're paying $450k for. Also, with high interest rates, putting an extra $20 on your mortgage cuts off tens of thousands of dollars from the total cost; with low interest rates, you need to take heroic efforts, like tripling your

          • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @04:00PM (#49580565)

            The extra $20 is a broken window fallacy. Paying off 20 dollars of debt pays off 20 dollars of debt. They'd only be saving far more in the high interest case because they'd be paying far more. Either way they're losing money by paying higher interest rates.

            Same with your overall interest rates. In the end, people have $X per month to spend on housing. They can't exceed that. No matter what they pay $Y in principle per month and $Z in interest per month. All that changes is the relative ratio of Y and Z. High Z, low Y and the money goes to the banks. Low Z, high Y and the money goes to the property owners. Of the two I know which I prefer.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Not if you subscribe to the entirety of his post, which included prices falling due to higher buying costs, resulting in paying the same total amount, but with more of it going to interest. That makes it a better way to make use of an extra $20. That's his idea. I'm not endorsing it, but that's what he's saying, so no broken window fallacy.
              • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @04:42PM (#49580831)
                That's only correct if you believe that the $120K house he mentions now costs $350K because of lower interest rates. I submit that is not the case. House prices may rise with lower interest rates and increased affordability, but not nearly that much. The example buyer is getting much more for their monthly payment with lower interest rates.
            • At the beginning of a mortgage, depending on the interest rate maybe $19.99 or $18.00 of each $20 payment may be towards interest instead of the base debt. When interest rates are lower, more of the payment is toward the debt, which builds the payer's equity. Your payment (unlikely to be the same under different rates since the higher interest rate needs a higher payment to work out over the same term) under different interest rates goes towards interest or equity at different rates and that's not a broken-

              • This depends on the type of mortgage that you buy. Deals where the lender front loads the interest payments are typically fixed-rate, fixed-term, products. At the other end of the spectrum are interest-only deals with overpayments. In those your bill is however much you owe on the outstanding loan at this this months interest rate, with any payment over that level paying off the debt. Inbetween there are many types of hybrid product.

            • In one scenario, you're paying $980 of interest and $20 of principle on your first like 50 payments (not exactly accurate: you're accruing $980 of interest, then paying $1000, moving your balance down by a net of $20). Paying $20 extra bypasses $980 of accrued interest in the end, saving you money.

              In another scenario (low interest rate), you're still paying $1000/mo for 360 months; but even the earlier payments are like $850 of principle and $150 of interest. Whereas each $20 will save you $980 off the

          • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @05:05PM (#49580987) Homepage Journal

            Home prices are high because banks refuse to sell them. They'd rather they rot, become inhabited by squatters, get stripped of their fixtures, and finally burned down by someone in the neighborhood who feels that a smoking crater would be more valuable to it than a crack house.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )
          My roomate and I lived in a rented duplex during the real estate run up prior to the Dot Com Bust in Silicon Valley, where we had a bed of dead petunias in the front yard. An elderly woman walking her dog told us that our dead petunias cost her $25,000 on the value of her house. I asked her if she was selling her house. She said she wasn't. I asked her how did she know that she lost $25,000 without an appraisal. She walked off in a huff.
          • She should have been happy. There's typically no reason to want your property to increase in value unless you plan to sell it. It just increases your property taxes.

            Of course, what she was actually trying to tell you, in her lovely passive-aggressive way, was to fix your damn flowerbeds, but you went and had to bring logic into the argument!

            • She should have been happy. There's typically no reason to want your property to increase in value unless you plan to sell it. It just increases your property taxes.

              The post you're replying to was in Silicon Valley, obviously in CA. So the property tax is (mostly) based on the purchase price + some small growth allowed each year. That was due to Prop 13. So just because the value goes up, doesn't make the property tax go up... unless something happens to cause it to get reassessed (I think major improvem

              • by creimer ( 824291 )
                I think it was the wealth effect [wikipedia.org], where people perceived themselves as being richer than they really are. Californians love to brag about their real estate prices, especially when it goes up as it did before the Dot Com Bust (2001) and the Great Recession (2009).
              • Interesting... I wasn't aware of how that worked in California. That seems a little bit more fair for people who purchased property before value happened to skyrocket. My property tax is based on the assessed market value of my home, so I'm happiest when the local housing market is depressed.

                • It's good for a long term homeowner, but messed up lots of other things.. As a kid, I remember tons of after school activities and such that _older_ kids had suddenly went away after Prop 13 went in. (Probably more than after school activities, but that's what I remembered at the time...)

                  (I bought a few years ago, so I have a high purchase price, but will "benefit" from Prop 13 if values go up higher and I thus don't have to pay hugely increased property tax.. But I do think things should be more even a

          • "In that case, if you write me a check for $12,500 I'll start ripping this bed out right now and we'll both come out ahead!"
      • by Ranger ( 1783 )
        Yup.
      • Value is entirely based on perception.

        Wall Street is entirely based on perception. I can point to very few stocks that one should buy based on them being a good deal for actual value of the company. Just buy/sell and hope you're not the top of the pyramid.

      • Value is entirely based on perception.

        Value is based on profit. Profit is disclosed each quarter. This tweet didn't cost $8B; the title is grossly misleading. The quarterly earnings cost $8B in valuation, and the tweet just pushed the loss up an hour or so.

        • by Trongy ( 64652 )

          Twitter isn't profitable. Therefore it's value is based on perception, i.e. the belief that it will someday become profitable.

          I do agree that the title is misleading. If the earnings report had been release at the normal time the price would still have dropped. This happens all the time with stocks. There possibly was a stampede on this occasion, with people trying to sell quickly to beat the market.

        • Value is entirely based on perception.

          Value is based on profit. Profit is disclosed each quarter. This tweet didn't cost $8B; the title is grossly misleading. The quarterly earnings cost $8B in valuation, and the tweet just pushed the loss up an hour or so.

          No, the theory is that value is based on discounted future cash flows (profits), but the reality is that a company like Amazon has a huge market valuation despite making effectively no profit ever, and a company like Apple appears to be valued on the basis that its profits can go on increasing year on year to infinity.

        • There is a real difference between announcing numbers at 4pm and 5pm. In one case, trading immediately reacts and there is a crash because of momentum traders. At 5pm, the markets are closed, and the crash is anticipated. Therefore, there is less automated collapse.

          Why Wall St. guys get paid so much to let computers do their work for them, I have no idea.

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:22PM (#49580283)

      How is something as useless and stupid as Twitter be worth more than $8bn in the first place?

      Maybe it's not as stupid as useless as you think. Why wouldn't real-time stats on what people on the internet are talking about be worth some major buckage?

      • Why wouldn't real-time stats on what people on the internet are talking about be worth some major buckage?

        http://msti.files.wordpress.co... [wordpress.com]

        You just blew my mind. I was one of those thinking why twitter was valued so high, what kind of value is in "poop tweets" or "breakfast tweets", but it's also "I saw this ad, or a friend told me about this product" It's like instant market research.

        • The use of the hashtag is counted. Those counts are then sorted into trends and sorted again by location. I would say it's less about market research and more about what's happening in the news.

    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:23PM (#49580299)

      Twitter is RSS feeds, centralized and simplified. It works well for a lot of people.

      If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid.

    • How is something as useless and stupid as Twitter be worth more than $8bn in the first place?

      By making 100's of millions in revenue every quarter [google.com].

      It's one of the biggest sites on the Internet and is used by people constantly, it's hard to imagine how it wouldn't be worth more than $8bn.

      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        But $577,820,000 in 2014 losses (and they've never made a profit)? Sell at a loss, and make it up in volume?

        Believe it or not, but some companies actually make a profit on their revenue.
        • But $577,820,000 in 2014 losses (and they've never made a profit)? Sell at a loss, and make it up in volume?

          Believe it or not, but some companies actually make a profit on their revenue.

          The thing with a massive amount of revenue is a proportionally small amount growth in revenues or drop in costs can make them extremely profitable.

          Twitter is still a very young and growing company, the future has a a lot of potential profit.

          • by radl33t ( 900691 )
            Sorry what? Generously, they make 1.6b in revenue, allowing them a net margin equal to google and they need to increase revenue by 15X and somehow salvage 25% of that into net income. AKA they need 6x their current revenue as income. On just revenue At 2014 pace this looks like 15 years away, lol. Nice investment horizon. If things don't slow down, a number of absurd assumptions hold over this time, the value you pay for the company might be worth it in 2030. What a hilarious investment. Any proposals on h
            • Sorry what? Generously, they make 1.6b in revenue, allowing them a net margin equal to google and they need to increase revenue by 15X and somehow salvage 25% of that into net income.

              Huh? Why are you comparing their margin to Google's? There are sub-Google levels of profitability.

    • Indeed.

      Nothing of value was "lost."

  • by Snowgen ( 586732 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:17PM (#49580233) Homepage

    It wasn't the tweet that caused the sell off, it was the poor Q1 numbers.

    • by Fwipp ( 1473271 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:24PM (#49580307)

      The idea that releasing the Q1 earnings after-hours allows people to make better judgments - they don't think "shit I have to sell all my stock RIGHT NOW", because they have a bit to think about it before the morning. Otherwise, you get a runaway effect, with some people selling early, people noticing the stock price dropping, and it starts crashing as more and more people try to sell before it "craters."

      In theory, more time to react will smooth out your responses and make things less scary.

      • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @04:05PM (#49580599)

        The idea that releasing the Q1 earnings after-hours allows people to make better judgments -

        What you mean is that releasing the earnings after hours allows all the big guys to dump shares first, minimizing their losses, and everyone else wondering if they should eat the now-massive losses on what they hold or just keep holding and hope it goes up again.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Just announce bad news first thing on Monday morning when everyone is in a bad mood and buy any of your stock that's offered below whatever limit you think is reasonable. Profit.

    • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:25PM (#49580311)

      It wasn't the tweet that caused the sell off, it was the poor Q1 numbers.

      Well sort-of. The thing is wall street speculation is now highly automated. If a stock starts to slip before the numbers are supposed to be released, all the algorithms start to throw off warning bells and cause a sell-off run much more efficiently than humans reading twitter ever could.

      If stock slips during an earnings announcement, it is expected, and bots don't emulate panic... if it happens BEFORE earnings announcements, bots latch on to the pattern in what is essentially insider trading, but with plausible deniability.

      • by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:51PM (#49580499) Journal

        The thing is wall street speculation is now highly automated. ... and cause a sell-off run much more efficiently than humans reading twitter ever could.

        This is exactly what triggered it. The page was up for forty five seconds. 45 seconds is not enough for humans to read and understand it, but that is plenty of time for bots.

        During that 45 seconds, assorted stock-trading bots picked up on it, scanned it, and sold over 3M units, or $153M, of their stock. That's over 30x their normal trading levels.

        The huge uptick in stock sales triggered another bunch of automated trades, and over the next 18 minutes they had more trades than they had seen all quarter -- the last trade spike that big was after their last earnings report, when the price jumped from about $37/share to around $50/share.

        Then, about 18 minutes after the brief posting, trading stopped because of the anomaly. It is normally an effective tactic when trading bots go crazy.

        20 minutes later trading was resumed for the remaining half hour of the day. There were over two million trades per minute over that half hour, and the stock price continued dropping from $51.24 to $42.27, with a slow but steady drop today down to $38.49. Days like this make me laugh at stupid investors. No point in selling now, the value is already lost. It is unlikely another bombshell will be dropped. Selling just reinforces your losses.

        Of course, if you're a long term investor you'll note that nothing about the company changed; no deals were cancelled and they are still growing in ways that matter. Their stock is low, making it a good value to pick up.

        • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @04:09PM (#49580627)

          Its a good value to pick up if you have some long term faith in the company. But any company where the CEO is making 70 million to lose money sounds way too much like the management is running it for their own benefit to me. I won't be buying.

        • The thing is wall street speculation is now highly automated. ... and cause a sell-off run much more efficiently than humans reading twitter ever could.

          This is exactly what triggered it. The page was up for forty five seconds. 45 seconds is not enough for humans to read and understand it, but that is plenty of time for bots.

          During that 45 seconds, assorted stock-trading bots picked up on it, scanned it, and sold over 3M units, or $153M, of their stock. That's over 30x their normal trading levels.

          This doesn't quite make sense to me. Assuming the bots are smart enough to parse the earnings reports (highly plausible) wouldn't they react the same as if it were a proper release?

          Why is the early release difference? Would this same drop have happened when the bots saw the news overnight and reacted the next morning, or would the human investors have done something that would have changed the bots behaviour?

          • This doesn't quite make sense to me. Assuming the bots are smart enough to parse the earnings reports (highly plausible) wouldn't they react the same as if it were a proper release?

            There tend to be many additional news stories that temper the results. The markets close at 4:00 PM. That is exactly the moment when the reports leave embargo. Within an hour or so there are human-considered reports hitting the news, and by the time the markets open at 9:30 AM the next day there is plenty of context to place around it.

            In this case the bots only get a single source of information and instantly react. Then they are in a hyper-sensitive feedback loop and notice what other bots are doing, s

        • What the fuck? You know nothing about stocks, why are you talking about it?

          The company effectively did change. Investors were expecting $470-485 million sales, and it actually came out to $435 million, and revenue went down 9%. Really shitty news. Naturally, it drove the price down. If news on twitter had been great, the stock would have jumped.

          This is a non-story. The stock would have done the exact same thing if they had released the information at the proper time. It just would have done it a day l

        • "45 seconds is not enough for humans to read and understand it, but that is plenty of time for bots. "

          I now picture a bunch of counterstrike bots running around TK'ing eachother, running into walls and forcing legitimate players to disconnect. I think that is the entire global financial system in a nutshell.

  • Thought I was posting nude pix of the ex g.f. but I clicked on the wrong file.

  • More to this? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @03:36PM (#49580375)

    Another story [mashable.com] covering the tweet suggests a slightly different story:

    What Selerity does â" and they've done this before with Microsoft and ADP â" is monitor the web pages of public companies for changes that might be public, but not necessarily indexed.

    This can be done using a simple web scraper â" an application that simply scans a site for pages, often systemically trying every likely URL for a live website.

    (cut)

    In the case of Twitter's earnings report, it appears that the third-party company (which according to Twitter is the Nasdaq-owned Shareholder.com) that handles Twitter's investor relations page published the page with its quarterly results, using a web address that you could intuit from its current URL scheme.

    The URL scheme Twitter used was "https://investor.twitterinc.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=XXXXXX." The last published news release had the ID number of "905554."

    Presumably, Selerity just had to continue to try iterations of that number sequence until it found the report. Twitter's Q1 2015 earnings had an ID number of "909177" â" meaning the Selerity web scraper would have had to try less than 4,000 numbers before hitting on the right one. Given today's processing power, that could happen in the blink of an eye.

    This apparently was denied by Selerity [twitter.com] but as many have pointed out [twitter.com], if it were true, is it that different from what troll weev [wikipedia.org] was convicted and did jail time for?

    Is guessing a URL really a "hack"?

    • by jesseck ( 942036 )
      That was among the first things that popped into my head (after "Twitter is worth that much?"). A company used a discernible pattern to "hide" information on hopes it would not be found. That doesn't work, especially when the company is high-profile. People that want the data will look for it... there is no stopping them. Maybe Twitter will learn to protect confidential data prior to scheduled release.
    • Why post your financial statements in machine-readable text? Use an image or CAPTCHA anyone?

    • Is guessing a URL really a "hack"?

      Quite. If you don't want someone to read your stuff, don't put it on the internet and hope no one notices.

  • I hate twitter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Karmashock ( 2415832 )

    Or I hate how people use it. It is a good service to share little nuggets of information amongst a lot of people. But it is often used to express political views or talk about current events and you can't make a rational contribution on complex issues with that character limit.

    Both twitter and facebook can go to hell.

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      All the news that's fit to print in 140 characters. Like this post.

    • What I mean is, does a public news-ticker kind of short message service fill such an obvious need/value that even if Twitter(tm) didn't exist it would ultimately exist anyway?

      • No, we don't need it twitter for any of that. We already have news sites that are better at handling all of this... event the tabloidy ones are better. I can't tell you how many people I've seen turn their noses up at some site or other because it doesn't have a good reputation and then read twitter as if any random jackass is credible or not just another fucking troll.

  • You know, the fact that companies are expected to release their earnings numbers AFTER the market closes just smacks of how stupid the entire market system has become these days. In years gone by, such behavior would have been considered shady, as it's basically concealing the numbers until people can't take action upon them.

    Sure, you can argue how it protects the market from knee-jerk reactions and panic... but do you want a free enterprise system or not? Freedom includes the ability to do stupid and imp

    • They can take action on it the next day, once everyone has had a chance to receive and digest the information, rather than acting in a split-second on instinct and fear (and still being beaten to the punch by a computer).
    • One of the conditions for a "free market" is symmetric information. By releasing earnings numbers after the market closes, everyone will have the same information by the time it opens again in the morning.

      While an appeal to personal responsibility sounds catchy, you have failed to account for the effect on other people who have acted in a reasonably rational fashion. The benefits of the market accrue to the market as a whole, not to any particular player.

    • as it's basically concealing the numbers until people can't take action upon them.

      You have made one fatal assumption, that people are taking action. They are not. The market is no longer built around people but "Panic Investor Bot v2.54" who's biggest feature is that it can respond 1ns faster to a price fluctuation than v2.53.

  • When listed securities are traded with one specialist who has the ability to halt trading in order to match buyers and sellers and maintain an orderly market. Specialists don't have to ask to stop the market, they halt it until they can figure out what the market is pricing it at (keeping it orderly and making the spread).

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Wednesday April 29, 2015 @06:54PM (#49581691)

    It was the EARNINGS numbers that tanked the share price...

    The tweet was just premature because most companies release earnings AFTER the market closes.

    The drop in the share price would have happened after the earnings miss anyway, so it wasn't the tweet.

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