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Buyout or no, Twitter still has basic problems, says analyst

One analyst is sticking with his pessimistic view on Twitter, saying a potential sale does not change basic concerns about the company.

This is a case of merger and acquisition activity "trumping fundamentals," Mark Mahaney, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in an interview with CNBC's "Halftime Report."

"If there's any lesson from Twitter from the last two to three years is that the data to an advertiser has not been that helpful, has not been that useful and that's why advertisers have been leaving Twitter and that's why the revenue growth is decelerating," Mahaney said Friday. He laughed, admitting that the timing of RBC's downgrade "could not have been worse" in terms of the price action.

RBC downgraded Twitter to "underperform" on Thursday and cut its price target to $14 from $17, based on the firm's "belief that Twitter's value proposition to advertisers could be waning, based on [its] recent advertiser survey data."

On Friday, shares of the social media company surged more than 20 percent on heavy volume after sources told CNBC that Twitter is the subject of buyout interest from a number of technology or media companies including Alphabet's Google and Salesforce.com.

Although the stock has pared some of its gains, it was most recently trading above $20 a share, higher than RBC's price target.

Mahaney said these scenarios "seem to be very real." He said Google is particularly interesting as a suitor but with an "efficiency-oriented, discipline-in-finance oriented CFO in place" the tech giant "may be less aggressive as a bidder." Advertisers have not, to date, found Twitter's collected data very useful.

"We've had three, four, five years of advertisers working with Twitter data and the fact that they're moving away from Twitter has to tell you something about the value of that data to an advertiser. To a tech company, that's something different," Mahaney said.

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But for Salesforce, the RBC analyst said a successful bid for LinkedIn "was the asset that would have really have been useful to them," but "Twitter is less useful." Microsoft outbid Salesforce for the professional social platform in June.

Mahaney suggests that "the asset probably needs to be sold before the end of the year, before it becomes very clear" that Twitter is "going ex-growth," as revenue continues to decelerate with waning advertiser interest.

RBC also said, however, that Twitter is still "a unique asset with a strong value proposition to core users."

Disclosure: RBC Capital Markets makes a market in the securities of Twitter.