OPINION: X is still worth something, but not for the people running it. Boss Linda Yaccarino is set to present her plans for the social network formerly known as Twitter to bankers holding nearly $13 billion of its debt. Looming over talks is the likelihood that X’s value is substantially less than even that figure, writes Jennifer Saba.
By Jennifer Saba
NEW YORK – X is still worth something, but not for the people running it. Boss Linda Yaccarino is set to present her plans for the social network formerly known as Twitter to bankers holding nearly $13 billion of its debt, the Financial Times reported. Looming over talks is the likelihood that X’s value is substantially less than even that figure.
This week’s meeting with seven banks led by Morgan Stanley that supported Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of the platform caps off a tumultuous first four months for Yaccarino, a former advertising executive at Comcast-owned NBCUniversal. That includes a contentious interview last week in which she seemed caught off-guard by Musk’s announced ambition to charge X users a monthly fee to combat bots.
Despite Musk’s big pronouncements about pushing into subscriptions, X has historically relied on advertising, which contributed over 90% of revenue when it was a public company. But that business is spiralling, and the platform’s shifting policies could threaten more branding deals. In July, Musk posted that cash flow was negative because of a 50% drop in advertising sales.
The apparent strategic disconnect between the company’s ad-focused chief executive and its subscription-hungry owner comes as valuations are falling. TikTok parent ByteDance was recently valued at $224 billion, down by about a quarter from a year ago, the Information reported. Disappearing messaging app Snap’s market value has slumped by more than 10% over the past year.
Put it all together, and X isn’t just worth less than Musk paid for it, but likely less than its debt. Assume that the company’s revenue last year was $4.7 billion, based on results before it was taken private. If advertising has dropped by half, then this year’s sales should be a bit over $2.5 billion. Put that on the same enterprise-value-to-sales multiple as Snap, which is down to a mere 3 times, and X is worth around $8 billion.
The company is so far covering its hefty interest payments of $300 million per quarter, and Yaccarino sees profitable days ahead. But between Musk’s impromptu product shifts and the need to woo back advertisers, her task is daunting. If things deteriorate further, the company’s bankers – already nursing billions in on-paper losses – face the prospect of taking back the keys to a diminished platform that is worth less than even their claim on it.
Like a financial black hole, X threatens to consume most of whatever value it once had.