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Twitter ready to set final IPO price

CNN
Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 6:00am

Twitter will set the final price for its initial public offering later on Wednesday, a move that will clear the way for the stock to start trading Thursday.

Twitter has already set a non-binding range for the IPO, but Wednesday's announcement will reveal exactly where the company will price its shares. Earlier this week Twitter raised the price range to $23-$25 a share, from an initial $17-$20 range.

If Twitter prices at $25 a share, the company would be worth $13.6 billion.

But if you're looking to buy some of the 70 million shares that Twitter is selling in the offering, don't get too excited about the IPO price.

That price is what the offering's underwriters including lead banker Goldman Sachs will use when selling shares to their clients. Those customers are mostly large institutional investors, such as mutual funds and hedge funds. Shares will be released Wednesday night to those buyers, and the underwriters have the option to buy another 10.5 million shares from Twitter.

Regular investors will get their first shot at Twitter on Thursday morning, when the company will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker "TWTR." Although it's not clear just how high the stock will go on its first day, it's possible that shares will surge well above the offering price. So individual investors should be careful when looking to buy Twitter.

While the stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. ET, Twitter's shares likely won't start trading right away. It typically takes time sometimes an hour or more for newly listed shares to begin actively trading on the day of their public debut. But the hope is that Twitter's debut will be smoother than Facebook's was on the Nasdaq last year.

How Twitter makes money: Like many of the newly public Internet companies, namely Facebook, Twitter's business model revolves around ads. Twitter runs ads for corporate accounts, specific tweets and topics, and the sponsored content is tucked right into users' feeds.

Search for AT&T on Twitter, and a "promoted tweet" from Verizon may pop up. A "who to follow" box suggests a promoted corporate account like Macy's in the top slot. Advertisers can also place "trends" like the name of an album going on sale in the list of topics that are popular worldwide or in a specific city.

But Twitter isn't yet profitable. The company pulled in $317 million in sales in 2012, but ended up reporting a loss of $79.4 million.

For the first nine months of 2013, Twitter's revenue was $422 million. But losses have increased to $134 million.

Who's getting rich off Twitter: Twitter co-founder Evan Williams is the company's largest individual shareholder with a 12% stake, which is worth $1.4 billion at the top of the current range.

Peter Fenton, a Twitter board director and an early investor in the company, owns a stake worth $789 million. Williams' fellow co-founder Jack Dorsey holds shares worth $586 million, and company CEO Dick Costolo has a $192 million stake.

Williams and and Dorsey's third partner, Biz Stone, isn't on the list of largest shareholders.

Twitter also listed six institutional investors who own 5% or more of the company. The biggest winner on is private equity firm Rizvi Traverse, which holds a nearly 18% stake worth $2.1 billion.
 

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