Twitter sets IPO price at $26

Twitter has priced its IPO at $26 per share, indicating strong demand from investors

Twitter has set its IPO price at US$26 per share, a dollar above the top end of the price range it predicted earlier this week.

The company said Wednesday that it plans to sell 70 million shares to the public starting Thursday. Underwriters have the option to sell an additional 10.5 million shares during the first 30 days.

With the price announced, all eyes will be on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday morning to gauge investor reaction and demand for the stock, which will trade under the symbol TWTR.

Pre-IPO demand for the shares is reported to be several times the number of shares available.

The final IPO price is above the $23-to-$25 range anticipated by Twitter on Monday this week. That range had already been raised from between $17 and $20 per share because of demand.

By raising the price to meet demand, and perhaps hype, the company is walking a fine line between IPO success and failure.

The May 2012 debut of Facebook, which was the last major public offering of a social networking company, resulted in a string of investor lawsuits sparked by a fast slide in the company's share price on opening day.

The debuts of other popular social media companies, including Groupon and Zynga, were also clouded by a gradual drop in the share price over the following months.

Twitter continues to take in and lose larger amounts of money each quarter. Revenue from July to September was $169 million, just over double that achieved during the same period a year earlier and a quarterly record for the company. But Twitter racked up a net loss of $64 million in the three-month period, almost as much as it lost in the previous six months combined.

Twitter is seeing success in mobile. Sixty-five percent of the company's ad revenue comes from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, Twitter revealed in its IPO documents.

That's leaps and bounds ahead of Facebook, which had almost no mobile ad revenue when it went public.

The exodus of consumers from their desktop PCs to mobile devices is a strong trend right now, but making money from ads on a smaller screen is seen as a challenge for many Internet companies.

To succeed as a public company, Twitter needs to demonstrate to investors that it can continue to grow its revenue on both mobile devices and desktops, as well as its user base in the U.S. and overseas.

More than 75 percent of Twitter's 218 million monthly active users reside outside the U.S., the company revealed in its initial documents. International revenue, however, constituted only 25 percent of the company's total sales for the three months ended June 30, 2013. That's a big gap Twitter needs to fill.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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