STORY: Will Elon Musk leave Twitter at the altar?
That’s what investors were wondering on Friday after the billionaire sent a pre-dawn tweet saying his offer to buy the social media company was “on hold” pending information about the number of fake accounts on the platform.
Twitter shares fell more than 20% in premarket trading - but regained some ground after Musk sent a second tweet saying he remained committed to the deal.
But the estimated number of fake accounts – or bots – on Twitter has been public knowledge for some time, holding steady below 5% since 2013, according to regulatory filings from Twitter.
And Musk decided to waive due diligence when he agreed to buy the company last month - meaning there may be other reasons the Tesla CEO is suddenly skittish about Twitter, says Reuters Breakingviews columnist Gina Chon.
“So what may be going on here with Musk citing this issue of bots and fake accounts is that he’s just looking for a way to 1: renegotiate the price. He looks like now he’s vastly overpaid given the market rout, particularly when it comes to tech stocks, so that’s one issue for him. Or, he could just be looking for a reason to walk away from the deal entirely. He is using a bunch of his Tesla shares to help pay for this, with loans against those shares, and we’ve seen those shares fall as this deal got announced. And when he talked this morning about the deal being on hold, you saw Tesla shares actually go up a bit. So given that Tesla is his real baby, what is the tradeoff for him in terms of buying Twitter and does it make more sense for him to actually just walk away from the deal.”
If Musk does not complete the deal, he is obligated to pay Twitter a $1 billion break-up fee.
But for the richest man in world – who’s worth nearly $220 billion, according to Forbes – losing $1 billion is money he can easily spare, and what Musk may ultimately choose to do.
“He’s known for his erratic behavior. He’s changed his mind on multiple occasions with other things he’s said he’s going to do. He had talked a few years ago about taking Tesla private – that didn’t come to fruition. So there’s a lot of reasons to be skeptical about whether this is going to move forward.”