Dick Costolo talks Twitter IPO before NYSE opening bell

Dick Costolo talks Twitter IPO before NYSE opening bell
Wall Street should not be concerned about Twitter's lack of profits, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said Thursday. Above, Costolo, in blue jacket, with Mike Gupta, the company's chief financial officer, outside JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s headquarters in New York last month. (Scott Eells / Bloomberg)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo broke his silence on Thursday as his company prepared for its trading debut on the New York Stock Exchange, telling CNBC that Twitter was comfortable raising its initial public offering price because of the enthusiasm expressed during a cross-country tour to pitch the deal to investors.

"We've been on the road and seen enthusiasm for the story," Costolo said. "That's enabled us to make the changes that we've made to the price."


Twitter raised the price of stock sold in its IPO to $26 a share on Wednesday. That was above the already higher expected range of $23 to $25 a share. There was so much demand from institutional investors that the IPO was 30 times oversubscribed, according to Reuters.

When it begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday the social media company is set to raise $1.8 billion and be valued at $18.3 billion. That makes it the second-largest Internet offering in the U.S. after Facebook's $16-billion IPO last year.

Twelve-month price targets from analysts range from $29 to $54 a share.

Costolo said institutional investors not only seemed to get Twitter's business, they also understood the service as "an indispensable companion to life in the moment." One investor even showed Costolo a tweet from Sean Lennon about the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei who is under house arrest for his use of Twitter, Costolo said.

"That enthusiasm from investors and their own use of the product, both from -- a user basis, and then from the potential of it as a monetization platform has been fantastic to see," Costolo said.

Addressing the chief concern of many investors, Costolo said Wall Street should not worry about Twitter's lack of profits. The company plans to keep investing in its service and advertising products because it believes "Twitter would be valuable to anyone."

"There's nothing structural about Twitter that prevents us from having the kind of margin profiles of our peer group. We are investing for the long term. We think this is a long-term company—a company for which there is a fantastic use case for every person on the planet," he said.

He said Twitter is investing in improving the service to give it more mainstream appeal and make it easier for people to use, "to bridge that gap between massive global awareness and quick engagement on the platform."

He also said the company is focused on international. More than 70% of its users are overseas, yet less than a quarter of its revenue.

"We're even placing people on the ground, and that will be an area we continue to invest in to make sure that just like here interest  U.S., we're driving unique, regional content into the platform to further facilitate user value in those kinds of countries," Costolo said.

Costolo would not say directly that the disastrous Wall Street debut of Facebook influenced how Twitter conducted its own IPO.

"I think that our strategy approaching the IPO has been based on -- me and our investors, frankly, having a number of conversations with other CEOs and investors around Silicon Valley," Costolo said.

(He also wouldn't even mention Facebook by name when asked about competition. "I don't worry about other platforms," he said.)

He did say that being able to file IPO paperwork confidentially "allowed us to be thoughtful and patient."

Costolo underscored Twitter's strategy of becoming the "second screen" for TV viewing.

"Being able to help broadcasters and content partners aggregate that attention on Twitter during the show and engaging that live reach is a super-powerful capability for our broadcast partners," he said.

He also pointed to commerce as a potentially large revenue source. Twitter hired former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard as its new commerce chief in August to spearhead the effort.

"There's already commerce happening on Twitter every day," Costolo said.