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Wealth managers say they hear 'nary a tweet' for Twitter's IPO

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw
People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw

By Lauren Young

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twitter Inc has set a relatively modest price range for its closely watched initial public offering, but some financial advisers say their clients are not clamoring to invest in the social media phenomenon.

"Nary a tweet," says William Baldwin, president of Pillar Financial Advisors in Waltham, Massachusetts, when asked about client interest in the deal.

Out of 29 broker-dealers and independent advisers contacted by Reuters, 23 said they are not recommending Twitter shares. Only one said he would recommend it - and only to certain clients. Five others said they would wait to snap up the stock if it plunges after it begins to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

While retail interest might be low, tech industry analysts say there is expected to be a good appetite for Twitter stock from institutional investors at the current valuation. Actual institutional investor sentiment still remains unclear. Retail investors typically account for 10 to 15 percent of IPOs.

Twitter said on Thursday it will sell 70 million shares at between $17 and $20 apiece, valuing the online messaging company at up to about $11 billion, less than the $15 billion that some analysts had been expecting. If underwriters choose to sell an additional allotment of 10.5 million shares, the IPO could raise as much as $1.6 billion.

Blame last year's botched Facebook Inc IPO for the diminished interest from Mom and Pop in Twitter.

When the social networking giant's stock hit the market in May 2012, it encountered allocation problems, trading glitches and a selloff - shares did not recover their IPO price until a year later.

"People are still smarting from that experience," says René Nourse, a financial adviser at Urban Wealth Management in El Segundo, California. Part of the problem is that investors do not understand Twitter the way they "got" Facebook, Nourse and other advisers say.

NO CALLS ON TWITTER

Three brokers with Morgan Stanley, which was lead underwriter on the Facebook IPO, said clients are showing little or no interest in Twitter.

"With the debacle over Facebook, I haven't had one client ask about it," said one of the brokers, based in the southeast. The broker asked not be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Another broker, based in northern California, said, "Silicon Valley deals have been super-red hot, but I've had no inquiries from clients" about Twitter.

All in all, Twitter is no Facebook.

While Twitter relies on advertising like Facebook to make money, it is not profitable.

Twitter also has a smaller, less-engaged audience and it is not issuing as much stock, argues Kile Lewis, co-chief executive and founder of oXYGen Financial, an independent financial advisory firm that focuses on clients in their 30s and 40s, also known as Generation X and Generation Y.

"In spite of the 'glow' from most on Wall Street, I find it hard to make a recommendation for a company that is running a...loss," Lewis says. "Until they have a clear plan to monetize their product it seems too risky."

Twitter more than doubled its third-quarter revenue to $168.6 million, but net losses widened to $64.6 million in the September quarter, it disclosed in a filing earlier this month.

Since its creator Jack Dorsey sent out the first-ever tweet in March 2006, the micro-blogging platform has grown to more than 200 million regular users posting more than 400 million tweets a day.

Twitter is expected to set a final IPO price on November 6, according to a document reviewed by Reuters, suggesting that the stock could begin trading as early as November 7.

INVESTORS POLL ON PRICE RANGE

For individual investors, however, the pendulum is swinging the other way.

An online poll conducted through Friday morning on Reuters.com found that 57 percent of 225 respondents want to invest in the IPO at the range of $17 to $20, while 28 percent are not interested in the stock. Fifteen percent say they are waiting to buy the shares on the open market.

One cautious investor is Betty Tanguilig, a 75-year-old retiree and mother of eight. Back when Facebook launched, she was furious that her financial adviser Alan Haft, with California-based Kelly Haft Financial, could not get her more than $46,000 worth of shares from a $400,000 account to buy shares of the social networking site.

Now, Tanguilig is taking a more measured approach to the Twitter IPO. Even though her investment in Facebook is up 40 percent, she says she wants to wait and see how Twitter performs before jumping into the stock.

Tanguilig's hesitance about Twitter is not the result of a lesson learned from the mishaps of the Facebook IPO, but because like many of her peers, Tanguilig does not quite get Twitter.

"I use Facebook, I read what people are doing ... but I have never used Twitter," she said.

"I will give it a week," she said. "And if it does well, I would put in around $20,000."

Several independent advisers said it suited their investment styles more to wait and see how Twitter performed after the offering.

"We expect that Twitter will fall in value eventually post-offering," said Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial in New York. "That is the ideal time to buy."

An adviser at Raymond James said he would also advise certain clients to buy at the post-IPO price if the stock tanks on the first day. The adviser asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Betsy Billard, an adviser at Ameriprise Financial with offices in Los Angeles and New York, said most large-company mutual funds will be buyers. "My clients will own it - whether they want it or not," Billard says.

(Additional reporting by Jed Horowitz, Beth Pinsker, Ashley Lau, Jessica Toonkel, David K. Randall, Suzanne Barlyn and Olivia Oran; Editing by Linda Stern and Grant McCool)

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