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Analyst downgrades Twitter to sell rating, says earnings report ‘hardly a game-changer’

  • Pivotal Research says Twitter is a "niche-y" company and won't be able to beat its stronger competitors.
  • "While we can see this [earnings report] as positive for sentiment and investor confidence, it's hardly a game-changer for Twitter," the firm's analyst writes.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter.

An analyst at a small research firm told his clients Twitter shares have gone up way too far.

Twitter shares jumped 12 percent Thursday after the social media company reported a net profit for the first time and returned to revenue growth. The company posted earnings per share of 19 cents, which was 5 cents above expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

Pivotal Research lowered its rating to sell from hold for Twitter shares, saying the company won't be able to beat its stronger competitors in the ad market.

"Overall, the results represented ongoing progress which was consistent with our longer-term expectations for Twitter as a durable, if niche-y (but highly differentiated), platform for digital advertising which should eventually be able to approach industry-level growth rates," analyst Brian Wieser wrote in a note to clients Thursday. "We don't think Twitter's appeal will break out of its niche status any time soon. This severely limits its revenue potential, as Facebook and Google will continue to capture the bulk of the growth in spending for digital advertising."

Wieser reiterated his $21 price target for Twitter shares. The stock traded as high as $35 Thursday morning.

The analyst predicts the company can grow its sales by 11 percent in 2018 but said it was already priced into the shares.

"We can look at the most recent period's results as marking an important milestone in the company's turnaround, perhaps bringing the future forward by a quarter," he wrote. "While we can see this as positive for sentiment and investor confidence, it's hardly a game-changer for Twitter."

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.