Elon Musk stoked speculation that he could seek to renegotiate his takeover of Twitter Inc., saying a viable deal at a lower price wouldn’t be “out of the question.”
Twitter shares briefly pared losses in afternoon trading. The stock has been dropping on concern that Musk could walk away from the $44 billion acquisition altogether. That concern has grown over the past week as Musk has questioned Twitter’s publicly disclosed data on the percentage of spam and fake accounts on its social-media service.
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Musk pressed further on that front Monday at a Miami tech conference, estimating that fake users make up at least 20% of all Twitter Inc. accounts. That was his low end of his estimate on the number of Twitter bots, and he asked rhetorically if the number could be as high as 90%, according to a livestreamed video of his remarks posted by a Twitter user.
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk, the CEO of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX, last week said that his bid to buy Twitter was “temporarily on hold” pending details about how many spam and fake accounts are on the platform. Over the weekend, he tweeted that Twitter’s legal team called to complain that he had violated their non-disclosure agreement. Twitter has declined to comment.
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 was sold out, and organizers said journalists were excluded from attending. Musk appeared at the Miami summit via video conference.
Musk began buying Twitter shares in January and disclosed a 9.2% stake in the company on April 4. Twitter’s board accepted Musk’s $44 billion bid to buy the company and take it private April 25, but the deal has yet to close and Twitter’s shares are trading far below Musk’s offer. One theory is that Musk is angling to pay a lower price for Twitter by raising the issue of fake accounts.
Twitter shares fell 6.9% to $37.93 at 2:53 p.m. in New York. The spread between Musk’s $54.20-a-share offer price and Twitter’s share price continued to widen, wiping out all the gains the stock had made since Elon Musk disclosed his stake in the social media platform.