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Twitter could report its first profitable quarter ever

It’s been a long time coming.

The Twitter bird logo Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What will Twitter look like without COO Anthony Noto?

No one is likely to ask that question directly on Thursday when Twitter reports its Q4 earnings, but they should.

Talk to virtually any Twitter employee, past or present, and you’ll hear that Noto, who is leaving Twitter after almost four years to take over as CEO of SoFi, is an incredibly important part of Twitter’s management.

He has amassed a lot of responsibility and power internally in his time at Twitter. He oversaw all of Twitter’s revenue business, for example, and was the driving force behind Twitter’s push into live video, a business effort Twitter has highlighted a lot over the past two years. He was also one of the only high-level executives remaining from previous CEO Dick Costolo’s tenure leading the company. Noto has weathered a lot of change.

But now he’s leaving, and the big question is whether or not Twitter is stable enough to handle it.

When Noto announced his departure, Twitter said it would divide his responsibilities among other executives, and a spokesperson confirmed that the company is not planning to backfill the role. Some have pointed out that not every company needs a COO, a position that typically carries unique responsibilities, depending on the company.

But not every company has a part-time CEO, either. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, is also running payments company Square part-time, an arrangement that made Noto’s role even more important. We spoke with more than half a dozen current and former Twitter employees, and the general consensus is that there isn’t anyone in the building ready to step up in a Noto-like role.

Here’s the good news if you’re a Twitter investor: The company is coming off a positive fall quarter in which revenue was better than expected (though still down year over year) and daily active user growth remained strong (though we don’t actually know how big that daily active user audience is). The bonus: Twitter is likely to report its first-ever profitable quarter in Q4 — it reported a net loss of just $21 million in Q3, and profitability was a stated goal for the year.

The bad news: You still don’t know what you’ll get without Noto around. Twitter has been a revolving door of executives for years; it’s hard to sustain momentum when you’re always swapping out bosses. Maybe Twitter is at a place where Noto’s departure won’t have a tremendous impact, or maybe Dorsey will start spending more time at Twitter as a result. It will be interesting to hear what, if anything, is said on Thursday.

Twitter reports earnings pre-market on Thursday. Analysts are looking for profits of $0.11 per share on revenue of $686 million for the quarter. It would mark the fourth straight quarter of a year-over-year revenue decline. Analysts aren’t looking for much on the user growth front. RBC Capital’s Mark Mahaney expects Twitter added just one million new monthly active users last quarter, which would move the company’s total user base to 331 million.

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