Elon Musk puts $64 billion Twitter deal on hold


Shares on Twitter fell after Elon Musk put his $44 billion ($64 billion) takeover offer on hold just weeks after agreeing to sell the company.

Shares of the social media company fell 17.7 percent to $37.10 in premarket trading in the US on Friday.

It was their lowest level since Mr. Musk disclosed his stake in the company in early April and then made a “best and final” offer to take it privately for $54.20 a share.

The implied probability of closing the deal at the agreed price fell below 50 percent for the first time on Tuesday, as Twitter shares fell below $46.75.

It came after Twitter said days ago that fake or spam accounts represented less than 5 percent of its daily active monetizable users in the first quarter, when it had 229 million users who saw ads.

The company said the estimates were based on a review of sample accounts and the numbers were “reasonable.” But it acknowledged that they had not been independently verified and said the actual number of fake or spam accounts could be higher.

“Twitter deal temporarily suspended pending details to support calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5 percent of users,” Musk tweeted Friday.

He followed up a few hours later with, “Still committed to acquisition.”

Mr Musk, the world’s richest man and a self-proclaimed freedom of speech absolutist, had said one of his priorities would be to remove “spam bots” from the platform.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither Mr Musk’s representatives nor his company Tesla Inc were immediately available for comment.

But some analysts were critical of the decision and the way Musk announced it.

Tech analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities told clients in a note that the billionaire had “turned this Twitter circus show into a Friday the 13th horror show”.

Canceling the deal would cost Musk $1 billion.

†[Wall] Street will view this deal as 1) likely to fall apart, 2) Musk negotiates a lower deal price, or 3) Musk simply walks away from the deal with a $1 billion break-up fee,” Ives wrote.

“Many will see this as Musk using these Twitter/spam accounts as a way out of this deal in a rapidly changing market.”

Most US stocks, especially in the tech industry, have fallen significantly in the time since Mr. Musk announced his deal.

Josh White, an assistant professor of finance at Vanderbilt University and a former financial economist for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said decisions like Mr. Musk’s are usually disclosed in official documents.

“This happens when you gain access to the books and access to proprietary information. What normally doesn’t happen is a tweet,” said assistant professor White.

The unusual move could attract the attention of Twitter’s lawyers, he told CNN.

As part of the deal, Mr. Musk agreed to consult Twitter before making any public statements about it — and to avoid tweets that “discredit the company.”

If the deal falls apart, “I would expect Twitter’s current shareholders to potentially file a lawsuit,” Assistant Professor White said, adding that Mr. Musk’s actions had damaged them by lowering the stock price.

Twitter previously said it faced several risks until the deal with Mr. Musk was closed, including whether advertisers would continue to spend on Twitter amid “potential uncertainty about future plans and strategy.”

Mr. Musk has criticized Twitter’s moderation policy. He has said he wants Twitter’s algorithm to prioritize making tweets public and has opposed too much power over the service to companies that advertise.

Earlier this week he said he would? Reverse Twitter’s Ban on Former US President Donald Trump when he bought the social media platform, indicating that he plans to reduce the moderation of the site.

-with MONKEY

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