Twitter admits it accidentally overstated user numbers between 2019 and 2021

The company also revealed an operating loss of $128 million as Musk deal approaches.

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Daniel Cooper
April 28, 2022 8:39 AM
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 27: In an aerial view, a sign is seen posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarters on April 27, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and Space X, reached an agreement to purchase social media platform Twitter for $44 billion. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

As it prepares itself for the possibility of becoming wholly owned by Elon Musk, Twitter is today revealing that it previously overstated its user figures between 2019 and 2021. In its newest financial reports, the platform says that users with multiple accounts were inadvertently counted as multiple people. The difference in the figures was never more than 2 million either way, but it reflects the even more limited nature of Twitter’s growth.

In terms of revenue, Twitter pulled in $1.20 billion across the first quarter, of which $1.11 billion was made through advertising. A further $94 million was added through “subscription and other revenue,” which includes data sales and other business-to-business services. A cash injection also came from Twitter’s sale of MoPub, its mobile ad platform, which it handed off to AppLovin for $1.05 billion in an all-cash deal. Despite this, the company posted an operating loss of $128 million compared to a modest gain of $52 million in the same quarter last year.

Twitter defines its user figures through the term "average monetizable Daily Usage (mDAU)," which means the number of people using the platform it can actually make money from. In the first quarter of 2022, that figure was 39.6 million for the US, and 189.4 million for the rest of the world, a significant increase compared to these figures last year. Twitter, as part of its user correction, published updated figures for Q4 2021, saying that it had 37.5 million mDAU in the US and 177.3 million internationally.

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The company, as per the rules, couldn’t give guidance on its future performance given a deal to take it private is looming in the near future. But it’s interesting to wonder just how much value can be extracted from a platform that, despite seeing modest if healthy user growth, still managed to lose $128 million in a quarter. Financial-types believe that Musk will saddle the newly-private Twitter with at least $13 billion in debt (it currently owes around $5 billion), meaning that it needs to make more than a billion in pure profit each year just to satisfy its interest payments.

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