Twitter's Stone: no IPO or funding talks
SEOUL (Reuters) - Twitter has no plans to go public any time soon and does not need additional funds because it is making money, the co-founder of the popular microblogging site said.
"We have so many other things before we even think about that," Biz Stone told Reuters at a business forum in Seoul on Thursday when asked about the prospects of an IPO.
"We are not even discussing it internally. It's too far off," he said, as fans crushed around trying to take his photo, adding that Twitter had no plans to raise funds over the next 12 months. The company, created in 2006, employs about 350 people.
Valuations for social networking companies have soared, with Facebook's recent $1.5 billion round of financing led by Goldman Sachs, giving the company a projected value of $50 billion.
Stone also dismissed speculation that JPMorgan Chase & Co was in talks with Twitter to buy a 10 percent stake for $450 million, which would value the company at $4.5 billion.
A Financial Times report on Sunday said a JPMorgan technology fund was interested in 10 percent of Twitter. The FT story said it was not clear if JPMorgan would buy the stock directly from Twitter or from current shareholders.
Stone was asked if Twitter was talking with JPMorgan.
"(The report is) made up," he said.
The New York Times reported this week JPMorgan had indirectly acquired an approximate 9 percent stake in Twitter through a fund operated by an angel investor.
Twitter, which allows users to send short, 140-character text messages, or Tweets, to groups of followers, is one of the Web's most popular social networking services along with Facebook and LinkedIn, and had 175 million users as of September.
Social networking services are a growing challenge to Web players such as Google Inc, Microsoft Corp and Yahoo! Inc, competing for users online and advertising dollars, raising speculation Twitter may become the target of a takeover bid.
Last month, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen's venture capital outfit invested $80 million in Twitter.
In December, Twitter said it raised $200 million in a deal that valued the company at $3.7 billion, less than a year after it began its first serious efforts to make money. Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was the lead investor, which included existing Twitter investors.
Stone, 36, who reportedly pronounced his given name Christopher as "Bizober" when he was a child learning to talk and decided to change it later to Biz, created Twitter with Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey in 2006.
He left Google at around the same time with Williams to start a new podcasting project and later worked to improve the then-popular text message to create Twitter.
It has since become a popular communication tool for celebrities, politicians and businesses, and played a role in several geopolitical events including the recent uprising in Egypt.
"TWEETS MUST FLOW"
Stone defended Twitter's role in his recent blog article "The Tweets Must Flow" after Egypt curbed access to social networking sites that helped activists rally supporters and coordinate protests to depose its long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak.
"Throughout 2008, 2009 and 2011, with so many things around the world somehow Twitter found its way. And every single one of these things was just another amazing eye-opening moment for us, making us realize that the open exchange of information really can have a positive global impact all around the world," Stone said on Thursday.
"The very simple service we started building is being used in the corners of the world we had never anticipated, thanks in large part to the fact that there are 5 billion mobile phones in the world. It really taught me ... technology can solve almost any problem."
The explosion of tablet computers and low-cost smart devices is helping social networking sites grab more users and boost growth.
Stone said Twitter wanted to remain independent and was not in any formal bid talks.
Twitter held talks with Facebook "a couple of years ago ... (but) nothing formal since and it's mostly rumors all the time," he said.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Google and Facebook have held low-level takeover talks with Twitter that give the Internet sensation a value as high as $10 billion.
"We make money. We earn money from a suite of products -- We have promoted tweets ... promoted accounts, all of which are in our advertising mechanism..
"We are just really getting started. We have some internal forecasts (for advertising revenue for 2011) but nothing is really shared right now. We don't need to set the world record or anything like that," Stone said.
Industry research firm eMarketer said in January that Twitter, which does not provide financial information, generated an estimated $45 million from advertising in 2010 and was expected to generate about $150 million this year.
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