Twilio Shares Stumble as Investors Fear a Demand Slowdown

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(Bloomberg) -- Twilio Inc. shares fell the most in more than nine months on Friday after the maker of customer communication and marketing software gave a forecast for the current quarter that fell just short of estimates, signaling concerns that companies may pull back spending for business tools amid an uncertain economy.

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Revenue will increase about 31% to $970 million in the period ending in September, the company said Thursday in a statement. Analysts, on average, estimated $975.6 million. Twilio projected a loss, excluding some items, of as much as 43 cents a share, compared with analysts’ estimate of a loss of 11 cents, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We have not seen broad-based impacts to our business yet because of the macro economy,” Chief Executive Officer Jeff Lawson said in an interview. “We’re preparing ourselves for a variety of outcomes that could come, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

While best known for powering business-to-consumer messaging such delivery notifications, Twilio is betting on an expansion into the wider market for customer service tools and trying to compete more forcefully with Salesforce Inc. and Adobe Inc. Recent acquisitions include identity verifier Boku Identity Inc., toll-free messaging service Zipwhip and customer data provider Segment. Lawson said that even with economic uncertainty, the company stands by its forecast for full-year 2023 profitability on an operating basis.

Shares fell as much as 18%, the most since October, to $80.12 Friday morning in New York. The pandemic darling has slipped 68% this year compared with a 23% drop in the iShares Expanded Tech-Software Sector ETF.

Second-quarter revenue increased 41% to $943.4 million. Analysts, on average, estimated $918.2 million. Twilio reported a loss, excluding some items, of 11 cents a share, compared with an estimate of a loss of 20 cents.

The company will have to show more traction toward its 2023 profitability target to get appreciated by investors, wrote Morgan Stanley’s Meta Marshall after the results, adding that the quarter delivered a “mixed message.”

While topline growth surpassed expectations, two indicators of customer demand missed analysts’ projections. The company added a net 7,000 new customers, short of the 7,313 expected, while the dollar-based net expansion rate, which indicates growth among existing customers, was 123%. Analysts estimated a rate of 127.3%.

The company is seeing “slightly longer sales cycles” in a few areas, Lawson said, particularly in subscription services versus consumption-based offerings. While some demand softness has been seen from customers in industries like cryptocurrency, it didn’t have a material impact on sales, Elena Donio, president of revenue, said in remarks prepared for a conference call. She added there has been increased demand from financial services and IT companies.

Twilio has recently slowed hiring, except for “some key areas,” and closed several offices, Chief Operating Officer Khozema Shipchandler said in the prepared remarks. At the end of June, the company had 8,510 employees.

Twilio recently increased prices in North America for its flagship customer texting service, which may improve results in the second half of the year, particularly since US midterm elections will drive demand for political messaging services, wrote JPMorgan’s Mark Murphy in a research note ahead of results.

Many corporations with significant overseas exposure have seen growth curtailed by a surging US dollar. Lawson said that Twilio, which makes about a third of its sales outside the US, has bucked the trend, and currency fluctuations haven’t affected profitability due to the company’s hedging program.

(Updates with comments from CEO interview beginning in the third paragraph.)

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