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Twitter stung by stall in user growth

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Twitter shares nosedived on Tuesday after reporting its user base showed little change in the past quarter as the messaging platform delivered fresh losses and weaker-than-expected revenue growth.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Twitter shares nosedived on Tuesday after reporting its user base showed little change in the past quarter as the messaging platform delivered fresh losses and weaker-than-expected revenue growth.

The loss for the first quarter of 2016 amounted to US$80 million, compared with a loss of US$162 million in the same period a year ago. Revenues meanwhile jumped 36 per cent year-over-year to US$595 million.

But in a key metric in the fast-evolving social media world, Twitter's trend was flat. The number of monthly active users was 310 million, up three per cent from a year ago and only slightly higher than the 305 million in the previous quarter.

Twitter changed the way it measures active users, no longer counting those who follow via SMS text messaging. The number reported in the fourth quarter including that group was 320 million.

Twitter shares skidded 10.7 per cent at US$15.84 in after-hours trading, extending their slump over the past two years.

Since its much-anticipated public offering in November 2013 at US$26, Twitter shares saw a jump to US$60 the following month but have been sliding since then.

Twitter's growth woes have led to the return of co-founder Jack Dorsey as chief executive, and he has promised new services in a bid to boost growth and user engagement.

In a letter to shareholders, Twitter cited "a return to sequential growth in monthly active usage, driven by seasonality and marketing initiatives" in the past quarter.

"We also saw deepening engagement (likes, replies and retweets) driven by a few important product launches... We remain focused on disciplined execution to drive sustained audience growth over time."

It added that revenue was "at the low end of our guidance range because brand marketers did not increase spend as quickly as expected in the first quarter."

Twitter marked its 10th birthday last month, having become a powerful communication tool but still struggling to win users and reach profitability.

While Twitter has become a must-have tool for journalists, activists and celebrities but it struggled to show it can expand beyond its devoted base to become a mainstream hit.

Mr Dorsey has introduced a new "Moments" feature highlighting breaking news stories, and has been allowing users to see an "algorithmic" timeline which is designed to be better adapted to each person sending a tweet.

AFP