Elon Musk launches hostile takeover bid for Twitter

Julie Jammot - Agence France-Presse
Elon Musk launches hostile takeover bid for Twitter
This handout image released by TED Conferences shows Tesla chief Elon Musk waving onstage at the TED2022: A New Era conference in Vancouver, Canada, April 14, 2022.
Ryan Lash / TED Conferences, LLC / AFP

SAN FRANCISCO, United States — Tesla chief Elon Musk launched a hostile takeover effort for Twitter on Thursday, insisting the platform needs to be transformed but acknowledging his $43-billion bid may fail.

The proposal faces uncertainty on multiple fronts, including possible rejection and the challenge of assembling the cash, but could have wide-reaching impacts on the social media service if consummated.  

Musk cited the promotion of freedom of speech on Twitter as a key reason for what he called his "best and final offer," and which the firm's board said it was reviewing.

"My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization," he said in his first spoken comments after the offer was revealed in a regulatory filing.

The world's richest person offered $54.20 a share, which values the social media firm at some $43 billion, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission made public on Thursday.

Musk told a conference in Canada that he was "not sure" he would succeed and acknowledged a "plan B" but refused to elaborate, though in the filing he noted a rejection would make him consider selling his shares.

Musk last week disclosed a purchase of 73.5 million shares — or 9.2 percent — of Twitter's common stock, an announcement that sent its shares soaring more than 25 percent.

'Stockholders best interest'

Twitter's board said it would carefully review what it termed Musk's "unsolicited, non-binding" offer and decide on a course of action that was "in the best interest of the company and all Twitter stockholders."

Musk said he "could technically afford" the buyout while offering no information on financing, though he would likely need to borrow money or part with some of his mountain of Tesla or SpaceX shares. 

Despite saying he wanted to take the company private, he said the firm would keep up to 2,000 investors — the maximum allowed.

Some investors have already spoken against the proposal, including businessman and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

"I don't believe that the proposed offer by @elonmusk ($54.20) comes close to the intrinsic value of @Twitter given its growth prospects," he tweeted.

Morningstar Research analysts echoed that perspective, saying, "While the board will take the Tesla CEO's offer into consideration, we believe the probability of Twitter accepting it is likely below 50 percent."

Twitter stock closed down nearly two percent for the day.

Musk's move throws another curve into the roller-coaster ride of his volatile relationship with the global social media service, and raises many questions about what comes next.

He was offered a seat on the board but turned it down over the weekend.

Musk went on to use Twitter as a stage to ask whether the social media network was "dying" and to call out users such as singer Justin Bieber, who are highly followed but rarely post.

'Twists and turns'

"Most of these 'top' accounts tweet rarely and post very little content," the Tesla boss wrote, captioning a list of the 10 profiles with the most followers — which includes himself at number eight, with over 81 million followers.

In other weekend tweets, Musk joked about dropping the "w" from Twitter's name and about converting its San Francisco headquarters to a homeless shelter "since no one shows up anyway."

He also suggested removing ads, Twitter's main source of revenue.

"He is such an entitled, privileged man, I am not sure the Twitter he has in mind is a platform that will ultimately serve a majority of the people on it today," said Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi.

Musk has mused on Twitter about giving verified account check marks to everyone paying for premium subscription accounts, which cost $3 monthly.

"I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy," Musk said in his filing.

Musk breaks the mold as a business figure, even in the Silicon Valley world known for disrupting markets and changing lifestyles.

The serial entrepreneur's endeavors include driving a shift to electric vehicles with Tesla, private space exploration and linking computers with brains.

His behavior, however, has raised eyebrows, prompted laughs and sometimes drawn condemnation or even litigation.

"It's get out the popcorn time as we expect many twists and turns in the weeks ahead as Twitter and Musk walk down this marriage path," Wedbush analysts said in a note to investors. — with Glenn CHAPMAN in Washington

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 21, 2023 - 12:32pm

Bookmark this page for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. Main image from by geralt from Pixabay

January 21, 2023 - 12:32pm

Mexican authorities are warning about the dangers of a viral TikTok challenge that has left school students intoxicated after taking a controlled medication.

With the slogan "The last one to fall asleep wins," the challenge consists of trying to stay awake after taking clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures, panic attacks and anxiety.

A side effect of the drug is drowsiness. — AFP

December 29, 2022 - 10:46am

According to tracking sites Downdetector.com and Netblocks, thousands of Twitter users reported an outage on Wednesday, but the issue appeared to be resolving, with error messages and missing tweets reappearing.

At the peak of the outage, at about 0035 GMT, DownDetector says more than 10,000 people reported problems with the platform, which is now owned by the mercurial billionaire Elon Musk.

AFP journalists in the United States and Asia were among those experiencing difficulties. — AFP

December 28, 2022 - 6:09pm

Chinese regulators approve 44 new foreign video game titles Wednesday, the first to be allowed to hit the market since an industry crackdown to rein in minors' gaming habits swept the sector last year. 

Beijing moved against the country's vibrant gaming sector last August as part of a sprawling crackdown on big tech companies, including a cap on the amount of time children could spend playing games.

Officials also froze approvals of new titles for nine months until April, but a growing number of domestic titles have been approved since then.

China's gaming regulator, the National Press and Publication Administration, on Wednesday said it had approved 44 new imported games in December including Nintendo's Pokemon Unite.  -- AFP

December 23, 2022 - 4:00pm

Chinese tech giant ByteDance says its employees of Chinese tech giant ByteDance improperly accessed data from social media platform TikTok to track journalists in a bid to identify the source of leaks to the media. 

TikTok has gone to great lengths to convince customers and governments of major markets like the United States that users' data privacy is protected and that it poses no threat to national security.

But parent company ByteDance told AFP on Friday that several staffers accessed two journalists' data as part of an internal probe into leaks of company information to the media. 

They had hoped to identify links between staff and a Financial Times reporter and a former BuzzFeed journalist, an email from ByteDance's general counsel Erich Andersen seen by AFP said.

Both journalists previously reported on the contents of leaked company materials. — AFP

December 19, 2022 - 3:51pm

TikTok's Chinese owner denied on Monday setting up a subsidiary company in Taiwan after the island's authorities said they were investigating the social media app for running "illegal operations".

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top China policy-making body, said the cabinet had requested a multi-agency investigation during a meeting on security issues posed by TikTok earlier this month.

The case was also forwarded to prosecutors for investigation after a local company allegedly engaged in business activities in Taiwan on behalf of ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese parent firm, MAC said without elaborating.

Chinese internet and social media platforms are banned from operating businesses in Taiwan under local laws.

ByteDance said on Monday it had no presence in Taiwan. -- AFP

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