Kevin Paffrath, a financial analyst and YouTuber who goes by “Meet Kevin” who attended the conference, said Musk was asked if “at a different price it could be a totally fine deal.”
“I mean, it’s not out of the question,” he said, according to Paffrath, who said he took contemporaneous notes. “The more questions I ask, the more my concerns grow.”
Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk’s comments Monday signaled he was continuing to distance himself from his initial $44 billion deal to buy the website, which was announced April 25. The Tesla CEO has sparred with Twitter management over the issue of spam bots, fake accounts that often promote cryptocurrencies and peddle scams, although analysts and some advisers have suggested Musk’s focus on the issue is merely a pretext to back out of the deal.
Tesla’s stock has fallen sharply since Musk’s interest in Twitter became public, and Musk’s net worth has taken a significant hit as a result. Much of Musk’s financing for the deal relies on Musk’s ability to leverage Tesla stock as collateral, similar to using property to back a loan. Most recently, the downturn in tech stocks had caused Musk to seek additional investors to lower his equity commitment in the deal, because Musk pledged $21 billion of his net worth — largely tied up in Tesla stock — to buy the site.
Elon Musk says Twitter deal is on hold, putting bid on shaky ground
Twitter shares fell sharply after Musk’s comments, closing at $37.39 on Monday — well below Musk’s offer of $54.20 per share. The deal had been expected to close later this year before Musk tweeted on Friday that it was on hold “pending details supporting [Twitter’s] calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users.”
Musk has indicated he believes spam accounts make up a significantly larger share of Twitter’s users. On Monday, he responded with a poop emoji to a Twitter thread from the social media site’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, that sought to explain its methodology for counting bots.
Twitter’s bot problem not likely to enable Musk to back out of deal
Musk had been outlining his concerns about Twitter bots when he was prompted about potentially seeking a lower price. He had likened the issue to buying a house with a termite problem. The house would be worth less if it were found to consist mostly of termites — when compared to one that had only a minor termite problem, he said.
On the surface, Musk was outlining his frustrations with his inability to get what he viewed as straight answers out of Twitter.
To Paffrath, who was in the audience, it was clear Musk was “laying the groundwork or [had] started renegotiating.”
speaking on a bot problem at twitter @elonmusk says it could be like buying a house when they say it’s 5 percent termites but you find out it’s actually 90 percent termites — says the company has not been forthcoming with him #allinsummit pic.twitter.com/dQxhRnUMJq
— Josiah Daniel Ryan (@JosiahRyan) May 16, 2022
Now with Musk’s comments at the tech conference Monday, analysts signaled doubt about whether the deal would end up going through.
“Our view is that the Street is assigning the chance of Musk walking as more than 50% which speaks to the pressure on Twitter shares … $54.20 is out the window with this circus show,” Dan Ives, analyst with Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note. “[We] view the $44 billion Twitter deal as having less than a 50% [likelihood] to get done as of today … If a revised deal does get done by Musk and Twitter, it will likely will be at a lower price.”
Meanwhile, Twitter issued a new corporate filing late Monday in which the company answered questions related to whether there would be layoffs or whether its content moderation practices would change. But the document gave few answers other than to say that company practices would continue in the same vein as before for the time being. The phrase “business as usual” is repeated nine times in the filing.
Elizabeth Dwoskin contributed to this report.