Technology

Why Elon Musk terminates $44bn Twitter buyout deal

By SHARON O. ISAALAH

Elon Musk’s tumultuous $44 billion bid to buy Twitter is on the verge of collapse — after the Tesla CEO sent a letter to Twitter’s board at the weekend saying he is terminating the acquisition.

The chair of Twitter’s board, Bret Taylor, tweeted that it is “committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement.

We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery.” Twitter could have pushed for a $1 billion breakup fee Musk agreed to pay under these circumstances. Instead, it looks ready to fight over the deal, which the company’s board has approved and CEO Parag Agrawal has insisted he wants to consummate.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

The possible unraveling of the deal is just the latest twist in a saga between the world’s richest man and one of the most influential social media platforms. Much of the drama has played out on Twitter, with Musk — who has more than 100 million followers — lamenting that the company was failing to live up to its potential as a platform for free speech.

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On Friday, shares of Twitter fell 5% to $36.81, well below the $54.20 that Musk had offered to pay. Shares of Tesla, meanwhile, climbed 2.5% to $752.29. Musk lawyer Mike Ringler wrote in the letter to Twitter dated Friday that for nearly two months, Musk has sought data to judge the prevalence of “fake or spam” accounts on the social media platform.

“Twitter has failed or refused to provide this information. Sometimes Twitter has ignored Mr. Musk’s requests, sometimes it has rejected them for reasons that appear to be unjustified, and sometimes it has claimed to comply while giving Mr. Musk incomplete or unusable information,” the letter said.

It also said the information is fundamental to Twitter’s business and financial performance, and it’s needed to finish the merger agreement.

“From the beginning this was always a head scratcher to go after Twitter at a $44 billion price tag for Musk and never made much sense to the Street, now it ends (for now) in a Twilight Zone ending with Twitter’s Board back against the wall and many on the Street scratching their head around what is next,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note to investors after the letter was published.

On Thursday, Twitter sought to shed more light on how it counts spam accounts in a briefing with journalists and company executives. Twitter said it removes 1 million spam accounts each day. the spam accounts represent well below 5% of its active user base each quarter.

To calculate how many accounts are malicious spam, Twitter said it reviews “thousands of accounts” sampled at random, using both public and private data such as IP addresses, phone numbers, geolocation and how the account behaves when it is active, to determine whether an account is real.

Last month, Twitter offered Musk access to its “firehose” of raw data on hundreds of millions of daily tweets, according to multiple reports at the time, though neither the company nor Musk confirmed this. Private data, which isn’t available publicly and thus not in the data “firehose” that was given to Musk, includes IP addresses, phone numbers and location. Twitter said such private data helps avoid misidentifying real accounts as spam.

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