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As the tweets turn

May 17, 2022
Illustration of a sad, sweating Twitter bird logo.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

On the off chance you weren't on Twitter in the 3am ET hour Tuesday, the inimitable Elon Musk added another twist to the takeover saga that only fueled worries of investors and deal watchers as to how the show ends.

Driving the news: @elonmusk

Why it matters: Musk's public musings have investors wary that he is either looking to shake down Twitter for a more favorable price or to find a way out of the deal altogether.

  • It also allows for a "savior" buyer like a PE firm to come in and get Twitter a lower price than Musk's original deal, while allowing the company to end what has been a chaotic experience.

The latest: Tuesday, Musk tweeted at 3:32am ET that his bid to buy Twitter "cannot move forward" unless CEO Parag Agrawal provides proof for his estimate that less than 5% of users are bots or spam accounts, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • On Monday afternoon during the All-In Summit, Musk said that a viable deal with Twitter at a lower price was not "out of the question."
  • This comes after his Friday announcement that the deal was "temporarily on hold" amid his concerns about the amount of spam and bot accounts on the platform. Musk argues it is higher than the company says.
  • Over the weekend, he said he'd run his own analysis using a random sample of 100 accounts, before claiming Twitter's legal team called him to complain he was breaking their non-disclosure agreement by publicly sharing the company's methodology.
  • In a series of tweets Monday, Agrawal defended Twitter's estimate of "well under 5%" fake accounts and bots and laid out how it arrived at the figure.
  • Musk quoted Agrawal's tweet and responded with the poop emoji.

By the numbers: Twitter's stock has been dropping over fears that Musk would walk away from the deal.

  • It dropped another 8% on Monday to $37.39 a share, erasing all of its gains since Musk first disclosed his 9% stake in the company at the beginning of April.
  • The $44 billion deal price would now be a 54% premium on top of its current market cap of $28.58 billion.

What they're saying: "He's either trying to get out of the deal, and of course the $1 billion breakup fee — which is still pretty small for Musk — or negotiate a lower price. I continue to think this is really him getting cold feet. The bot issue is really an excuse, we can call it a scapegoat," Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told CNBC's Closing Bell on Monday.

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