“Not ruled out”: Elon Musk on Twitter deal at lower price
Elon Musk sparked speculation he might try to renegotiate his acquisition of Twitter Inc., saying a viable deal at a lower price would not be “out of the question.”
Twitter shares fell 8.2 percent at the close of trading in New York. The stock has fallen on speculation that Musk could walk away from the $44 billion acquisition. Those concerns have grown in the past week as Musk has questioned Twitter’s publicly disclosed data on the percentage of spam and fake accounts on his social media service.
Musk pushed further on that front Monday at a tech conference in Miami, estimating that fake users make up at least 20 percent of all Twitter accounts. That was the lowest point of his estimate of the number of bots on the network, and he rhetorically asked if it could be as high as 90%, according to a livestream video of his comments posted by a Twitter user.
“Right now I’m being told there’s just no way to know the number of bots,” Musk said at the conference. “It is as unknowable as the human soul.”
Twitter declined to comment. The San Francisco-based company reports quarterly that spam accounts make up less than 5 percent of its total user base.
Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX, said last week that its bid to buy Twitter was “temporarily on hold” pending details on the number of spam and fake accounts on the platform. Over the weekend, he tweeted that he planned to do his own analysis of Twitter’s user base using a random sample of 100 user accounts. Shortly afterwards, Musk claimed that Twitter’s legal team called to complain that he had violated their nondisclosure agreement by publicly sharing the company’s methodology.
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal disputed that Monday in a tweet thread that offered more details about the company’s approach to spam accounts. Agrawal said Twitter manually checks thousands of accounts every quarter to determine how many should be counted as spam, but added that the process could not be performed externally due to concerns about user privacy.
Agrawal said Twitter “shared an overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago.” Musk responded to the CEO’s tweet thread by first asking why Twitter isn’t just calling users to verify their identities — then by posting a poo emoji.
Musk spoke at a conference hosted by a podcast called “All-In,” run by Chamath Palihapitiya, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks and David Friedberg. The $7,500 per person event sold out and organizers said journalists were barred from participating. Musk appeared at the Miami summit via video conference.
The 50-year-old billionaire began buying Twitter stock in January and announced a 9.2 percent stake in the company on April 4. months away from closing, and Twitter’s shares are trading well below the bid price.
The spread between Musk’s bid of $54.20 a share and Twitter’s share price continues to widen, wiping out any gains the stock had made since Elon Musk disclosed his stake in the social media platform.