Snap's first year as a public company hasn't been very good. Ever since the company behind Snapchat publicly unveiled paperwork with plans for a $20 billion IPO almost exactly a year ago, concerns have surfaced about Snap's long-term viability.
It turns out Snap doesn't have the user growth or business growth that everyone initially expected. Snap stock is down over 43 percent since its first day of trading in early March and the company looks a lot more like the next Twitter than it does the next Facebook.
The thing that makes Snap so compelling, though, is the idea that it's still early. Those perceptions about its growth could change on Tuesday when Snap reports Q4 earnings after markets close.
The hope is that Snap will grow into its expectations. Its ad business, for example, is still young. And while its user growth has slowed, the company hadn't made that a priority just yet.
At the same time, the big announcement during Snap's last earnings report was CEO Evan Spiegel's admission that the service is too hard to use, meaning the company is at least thinking about trying to get new people to use the service.
After three straight disappointing earnings calls in a row, Tuesday will be key in keeping that feeling of hope alive. Once a company develops a narrative - Twitter's reputation that it can't grow, for example - it can be tough to shake.
Here's what we'll be looking for:
* Snap first unveiled plans for a big redesign on its last earnings call in early November. Then it showed off that redesign to the media later that month. The redesign is still not broadly rolled out, and Snap has said little about why. Where is it? And how is the rollout going?
* Snapchat's user base isn't growing the way analysts once hoped. The company added just 4.5 million new daily users last quarter, down from the eight million analysts were looking for. (One year earlier, it had added 10 million in the same quarter.) Wall Street expects Snapchat added six million new users in Q4.
* Wall Street is looking for revenue of $253 million, or a 52 percent jump over last year. That would also put Snap's yearly sales at $793 million, almost double the $404 million it brought in in 2016. That sounds solid, but remember: Before the IPO, many close to the company expected Snap to be a $1 billion revenue business in 2017. It's nowhere close to that right now.
* Snap spends a ton of money and the company is still not profitable. Snap lost $443 million last quarter, almost the same amount it lost in Q2 and up considerably from the $124 million it lost in Q3 the year prior. Some of those costs are due to expensive cloud services deals with Google and Amazon that once signaled that Snap was bracing for an explosion of user growth. That growth never happened, but the costs are still there. How will Snap manage its spending in 2018?
* Snap recently unveiled a new in-app merchandise store, so there's a clear interest in testing the waters when it comes to in-app purchases. But the company's bet on Spectacles has been expensive, costing the company $40 million last quarter for "excess inventory." What are Snapchat's commerce plans? We'd love an update.
Snap will report earnings after the markets close. It will hold an investor call with analysts and reporters at 5 pm ET.
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