Oct 5, 2022 - Economy

The winners and losers in Musk's Twitter deal

Illustration of the Twitter logo cut out of a hundred dollar bill.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If Elon Musk does indeed end up buying Twitter for $54.20 per share, as he's contractually obliged to and as he now claims to want to, the big winners will be Twitter's shareholders. There will also be a large number of losers.

Why it matters: Twitter is much more than just a share price — and the takeover bid isn't being financed solely from Musk's pocketbook.

The big picture: The losers, assuming that the deal will now go through, include Elon Musk himself; Tesla and SpaceX shareholders; Musk's lending banks; and, maybe, democracy itself.

  • Musk is on the hook for $33.5 billion of the $44 billion that he has agreed to pay for Twitter, a company that is worth much less than $30 billion. He's a very rich man, with very rich friends, but it's still far from clear how he's going to be able to come up with the cash. (His attempt to borrow against his Tesla shares fell through.)
  • Musk's wealth — which he'll need to tap, along with his billionaire friends — is mostly tied up in Tesla and SpaceX stock. Shareholders in those companies will be worried that Musk will be forced to sell a lot of stock to raise the cash — especially given that he'll owe capital gains tax on all stock sales.
  • Musk's lenders, led by Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, have committed to lend Twitter $12.5 billion to fund the deal. Those loans, if they had to be sold today, would probably be worth much less than $12.5 billion. Losses on the $3 billion unsecured tranche alone could easily reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, sources tell Axios' Michael Flaherty.
  • Civil society is likely to be damaged, reports Axios' Scott Rosenberg, should Musk move ahead with his promise to enforce fewer rules about speech. Such an approach is wildly impractical and likely to unleash floods of spam, bullying, fraud and disinformation — which in turn is likely to immiserate thousands of remaining Twitter employees.

What's next: Elon Musk looks like he's about to find himself the owner of the world's most polarizing social network. Inevitably, that's going to distract him from running Tesla and SpaceX — just as Tesla, in particular, is facing serious competition in the electric vehicle space for the first time, and as Tesla stock is down some 40% from its highs.

The bottom line: Very few people, outside the ranks of Twitter shareholders, are happy about this development.

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