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Twitter to cut 8% of workforce, refocus under Dorsey
[SAN FRANCISCO] Twitter said on Tuesday it was slashing eight per cent of its workforce as newly returned chief executive Jack Dorsey outlined his "roadmap" to boost users and revenues at the money-losing messaging platform.
The cuts - which amount to 336 jobs - come less than a week after Dorsey, one of the founders of Twitter, returned to the job of CEO on a permanent basis as part of an effort to revive growth at the San Francisco-based social network.
"Made some tough but necessary decisions that enable Twitter to move with greater focus and reinvest in our growth," Mr Dorsey said in a tweet announcing the plan.
In a letter to employees, Mr Dorsey said his team is working "to produce a streamlined roadmap" for Twitter and its other services including video-sharing platforms Vine and Periscope.
"The roadmap is focused on the experiences which will have the greatest impact," he said in the letter.
"The roadmap is also a plan to change how we work, and what we need to do that work."
One of the key elements unveiled last week was "Moments" a feature that promises to let uses quickly tune in to "the best of Twitter" in an effort to leverage its connections in real-time news.
The San Francisco-based one-to-many messaging platform, which has not yet turned a profit, has struggled to expand its user base above 300 million, lagging rival networks such as Instagram and well behind the much larger Facebook.
Twitter said the layoffs will result in US$10 million to US$20 million in severance costs, and total restructuring expenses are estimated at US$5 million to US$15 million. The overall costs may be lower than severance due to recovery of unvested stock awards.
Twitter shares gained one per cent to close at US$29.06, after trading up as much as five percent during the day. The stock had jumped above US$70 two years ago but slumped this year below the 2013 offering price of US$26.
Lou Kerner, founder and manager of the Social Internet Fund and a partner in venture investment firm Flight.vc, said the reorganisation was "a very positive sign that Dorsey is serious about making the changes, even if they're hard, to make Twitter a great company again." "It's a big challenge, because he'll have to make some audacious changes to engage those users who have already tried Twitter and not found it compelling, without upsetting the users who already love Twitter," Mr Kerner told AFP.
"But given Dorsey's context and his immense talent, I think he's the most qualified person to give it a shot."
Mr Dorsey ran the company in 2007-2008 and was named interim chief executive after Dick Costolo resigned in June. He will continue to run digital payments service Square, which he founded about five years ago.
Analyst Youssef Squali at Cantor Fitzgerald said that "this is the right decision in our view and what's required to reverse the languishing user growth and engagement metrics."
Shebly Seyrafi, analyst at FBN Securities, said in a research note that Twitter shares are "attractive" with the company seeking new growth prospects.
"We regard this move as 'one-time' to clean the slate and rightsize the company under Mr. Dorsey's leadership," Mr Seyrafi said.
"We also note that Moments (formerly Project Lightning) was just introduced, and has been receiving generally positive reviews."
But Mark Mahaney at RBC Capital Markets sounded a note of caution over the reorganisation.
"Our take is that this is potentially concerning given our position that Twitter should be focused on growth (audience, engagement, and especially the top line) and not efficiency at this stage in its life cycle," he said in a research note.
"We are a bit concerned that some of the cuts are in engineering, which could hamper Twitter's ability to continue growing at a robust pace."
In its most recent quarterly update, Twitter said that the number of people using the one-to-many messaging service monthly climbed 15 per cent to 316 million compared to the same three-month period a year earlier.
But growth has stalled in the key US market, and Twitter's losses mounted despite revenue growth from new advertising features.