It was one of the most frenzied and unpredictable takeover bids ever, with Elon Musk sealing a deal to acquire Twitter Inc. for $44 billion within weeks of anyone even knowing he was an investor.
Elon Musk and Twitter Inc. reached an agreement for the world’s richest man to buy the social networking platform, resolving the pressing question of whether the company’s board would consent to the leveraged buyout deal.
Twitter, Tesla and China
Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos posed a provocative question after Elon Musk clinched his Twitter takeover: whether that will make things difficult for Tesla in China.
In a series of tweets, Bezos drew attention to the EV giant’s close ties with China, the world’s biggest electric vehicle market and home to Tesla’s first overseas factory. About half the company’s cars sold globally last year were produced at its plant in Shanghai, and Musk has said that figure may double.
“Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” tweeted Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
“My own answer to this question is probably not,” he added in a followup. “The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.”
A representative of Musk’s family office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after business hours.
Musk championed free speech on the platform in one of his first tweets after sealing the take-private deal. But Twitter — like most American social media platforms — is banned in China by officials wary of the impact on public discourse.
Tesla has boomed in China thanks in part to tax breaks, cheap loans and the green light to wholly own its domestic operations. But the company last year came under fire after state media and regulators questioned Tesla’s attitude toward customers. Bezos’ company also operates in the country, but it’s a distant competitor to local leaders Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and JD.com Inc.
Elon Musk next steps
Investors will receive $54.20 for each Twitter share they own, the company said in a statement Monday. The price is 38% more than the stock’s close on April 1, the last business day before Musk disclosed a significant stake in the company.
Reaching the agreement was the culmination of a monthslong saga that saw Musk amass 9% of Twitter’s shares; launch a fusillade of criticism at Twitter’s management; rebuff an invitation to join the company’s board; and then announce an offer that many people first construed as a weed joke. Twitter was so cool on the proposal that it adopted a so-called poison pill defense that would effectively dilute Musk’s stake if it got much bigger. Twitter’s board soon came around, persuaded by an elaborate $25.5 billion debt financing plan from Morgan Stanley and a who’s who of other global investment banks.
Getting to yes with Twitter’s directors, though, is only the first step in what’s likely to be an arduous experiment for Musk. The outspoken entrepreneur has hinted at a long list of changes he wants to make at the social-media platform, including removing restraints on speech, while at the same time casting doubt on the advertising model that accounts for the bulk of Twitter’s revenue. He’s on record as saying he’s not in it for the money. “I don’t care about the economics at all,” Musk said at TED.
“Musk is going to want to grow users and monetize, but the challenge of Twitter is that you have a highly engaged base that doesn’t generate a lot of revenue,” said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures. “When Elon talks about unlocking value, is he talking about free speech, or making money?”
While profit may be a luxury for the 50-year-old billionaire, it’s a central concern for the employees that Musk will need to keep Twitter’s engines running. And with Twitter going private, management will no longer be able to use options on publicly traded shares as compensation to lure and retain the hard-to-find coders all too ready to jump ship for a rival.Favorite