The word "roller-coaster" doesn't even begin to describe the ride that Twitter shareholders have been on so far this week—and it's not over yet by a long shot.
First, the company's share price price (twtr) zoomed higher early in the week on reports that the company could be a takeover target for several large tech and media companies, including Google, Disney, and Salesforce. But late Wednesday, the stock collapsed after reports that poured cold water on that initial enthusiasm.
When the stock opened for trading on Thursday morning, it was almost 20% lower than it had been the day before. That wiped more than $2 billion from the company's market capitalization.
According to anonymous sources who spoke to Recode, neither Google nor Disney are interested in making a bid for the company, although both have reportedly taken a look at doing so. Apple (aapl) is also not considering an acquisition of the social network, according to similar reports.
Anticipation of an acquisition is about the only thing that has been keeping Twitter's share price afloat over the past few months. As recently as June, the stock was trading for just $14, which gave the company a market value of just $10 billion.
At its height on Wednesday, its market cap had swelled to $17 billion—a substantial increase, but still well below the $48 billion the company was theoretically worth following its IPO in 2013.
Much of the recent optimism appears to have been fueled by well-timed leaks about potential bidders, a process that seems very similar to what Yahoo went through before its eventual sale to Verizon (vz). Although the company and various anonymous sources said there were multiple large bidders interested, most of them evaporated before bidding closed.
Even before Recode reported that Disney (dis) wasn't interested in an acquisition, analysts had been poo-poohing the idea, saying there was little or no synergy between the two and that Disney would be taking a risk buying a money-losing company whose growth is slowing.
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Salesforce (crm), the business software and services company, is the only major name that hasn't been ruled out so far—although CEO Marc Benioff was non-committal during an appearance on CNBC when asked about Twitter.
"It's a great product," Benioff told CNBC's Jim Cramer, "but obviously the business has a lot of challenges, very severe challenges." The Salesforce CEO said he wished Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey well. He told the New York Times, "I'm not saying I'm buying it, but I'm not saying that I'm not buying it."
The fact that Google (goog) isn't interested in an acquisition of Twitter has surprised some observers because the fit between the two companies seems to be the best of any potential bidder. Owning Twitter would give Google access to a lot of data on social behavior, which it could theoretically plug into its massive ad platform.
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At the same time, however, Google is focused on much larger prey with its launch and roll-out of smart home devices like Google Home and its new line of smartphones. And it can already get a lot of Twitter data via a partnership between the two companies that was signed last year.
When it comes to takeover potential, Twitter speculators don't have that many options left. Market watchers say there is a chance that an Asian investor like Softbank might be interested in a deal, or that a carrier like AT&T (t)—which has said it wants to make media acquisitions—might make a bid.
There's also a chance that a group of hedge funds or other investors could make an offer to take the company private. Speculation that Marc Andreessen's firm might be interested in such a deal was fueled in part by Andreessen's recent decision to stop posting to Twitter, and reports earlier this year that his fund considered backing a bid by Silver Lake Partners.
Twitter is said to want any potential bids in before it reports its earnings on October 27, which doesn't leave a lot of time for companies to analyze its balance sheet and come up with an offer. Given some of the recent reports of lack of interest, the group of actual bidders could be small.
If there aren't any serious bids, Twitter could decide to remain independent. But given its lack of growth and concerns about future earning potential, the share price would likely continue to slide back to where it was before the recent frenzy of takeover rumors began—if not lower.