Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter and has his offer been accepted?

Some analysts called the bid a 'hostile takeover' and 'publicity stunt'

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Elon Musk, the billionaire whose messages have the ability to influence the movement of stock prices, has set his sights at the very same platform he uses to send out his thoughts: Twitter.

The Tesla boss and world's wealthiest person offered to buy 100 per cent of the biggest microblogging platform this week, setting off a firestorm on his motives and what the future holds for the company.

Naturally, this potential marriage of powerful, high-profile sides is leaving a lot of questions, the answers to some aren't so clear right now.

Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?

Mr Musk said he wanted to take Twitter private because it needed some transformation. In particular, he wants it to become a platform for "free speech", which is a "societal imperative for a functioning democracy", according to his filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

He is the company's single-largest shareholder after his acquisition of a 9.2 per cent stake, or around 73.5 million shares, valued at about $3 billion. As a result, he was offered a seat on its board, but he declined the offer earlier this week.

The reason for turning the offer down was in the SEC filing: "Since making my investment I now realise the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form."

Mr Musk may have decided not to join the board as this would limit his ownership to no more than 14.9 per cent of the company, according to an SEC filing last week.

How much has he offered?

Mr Musk offered to buy Twitter for $43bn at $54.20 per share, which represents a 38 per cent premium on its stock's closing price on April 1, the last trading day before his investment of 9.2 per cent in the company was publicly announced.

The bid represents an increase on its market capitalisation of about $34.4bn at the close on Thursday.

How will he fund the acquisition?

Mr Musk's fortune is estimated at $251bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as of Friday, which would make his $43bn offer roughly 17 per cent of this amount.

However, he can't just take that chunk of money and use it to buy Twitter. The majority of his wealth is tied to Tesla and SpaceX – the former alone adding $68bn to his net worth after a 33 per cent surge in its shares in the past year – which have been enjoying a surge in stock markets.

He does have options, including selling his shares in Tesla or raise a loan for a leveraged buyout. Mr Musk hasn't given a hint on how he would proceed, but on Thursday he said in a TED conference in Vancouver that he had "sufficient assets", and also a Plan B if things don't pan out.

What has been the response?

Twitter made a move on Friday to shield itself from the takeover bid by Mr Musk. The social media company's board adopted a limited-duration shareholder rights plan, which would enable its shareholders to buy additional stock, it said in a statement on Friday.

Under the plan, also known as a 'poison pill' strategy to resist a bid from a potential acquirer, "the rights will become exercisable if an entity, person or group acquires beneficial ownership of 15 per cent or more of Twitter's outstanding common stock in a transaction not approved by the board", Twitter said.

Mr Musk, meanwhile, released a Twitter poll arguing the final decision should rest with shareholders and not the company's board. The poll, which ended shortly past midnight, garnered almost 2.86 million votes, with an overwhelming 84 per cent agreeing with Mr Musk.

Reactions have been mixed. At least two analysts are sceptical. Daniel Ives, managing director at Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities, called it a "soap opera" that would end in an "aggressive hostile takeover" by Mr Musk, given it is highly unlikely other bidders can make an offer at that level.

Meanwhile, analyst Neil Campling of Geneva-based Mirabaud Group told the Financial Times it was another "publicity stunt" or "diversion tactic" that could take away the attention from other issues involving Mr Musk.

Conversely, New York-based research firm CFRA downgraded Twitter's rating to “hold” from “buy”, arguing the offer price should be “enticing to shareholders” and will be “difficult to reject”.

Should Twitter reject his offer, Mr Musk had a veiled jab in his SEC filing: "My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder."

Meanwhile, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi Arabian billionaire who owns a stake in Twitter through his Kingdom Holding Company, rejected Mr Musk’s proposal, saying the offer does not come "close to the intrinsic value of Twitter given its growth prospects".

What is the current ownership structure of Twitter?

After Mr Musk, the next biggest shareholder in Twitter is The Vanguard Group, one of the largest investment asset managers worldwide with $8.1 trillion in assets under management as of January 31. It owns about 70.4 million shares, equivalent to 8.8 per cent.

Morgan Stanley, one of the biggest banks in the US with assets of about $6.5tn at the end of 2021, is third with around 67 million shares or 8.4 per cent. New York investment management firm BlackRock, with $10tn AUM at the end of last year, is next with 52.1 million shares or 6.5 per cent.

Rounding off the top five Twitter stakeholders is Boston-based State Street, an investment services provider with $4.1tn AUM as of the fourth quarter of 2021, with 36.4 million shares equivalent to 4.5 per cent.

What else does Elon Musk own?

Aside from being at the helm of electric vehicle major Tesla, aerospace company SpaceX and infrastructure firm The Boring Company, Mr Musk is also the co-founder of neurotechnology venture Neuralink and artificial intelligence company OpenAI, as well as playing a key role in founding the payments company PayPal.

Tesla also acquired SolarCity, a solar panel maker in the US, for $2.6bn in 2016, a reflection of his support for sustainable energy.

And last, but not the least, cryptocurrencies. While not an actual company, Tesla and SpaceX own Bitcoin, displaying Mr Musk's fondness for digital assets. His tweets have the power to more than sway market prices. He single-handedly helped Dogecoin, previously a virtual unknown in the crypto world, rise to prominence thanks to his prolific Twitter skills.

Can we take Elon Musk at his word?

This is the tricky part. While an accomplished entrepreneur, Mr Musk has a history of saying – tweeting – things that seem serious. They are later found to be completely false.

In 2018, he sparked a frenzy when he announced – on Twitter – that he would take Tesla private at $420 a share with "funding secured". It turned out to be a joke, which cost him and Tesla $20 million each in fines, and added to his long list of squabbles with the SEC.

Not even a week has passed since he pulled back his offer to buy no more than 14.9 per cent of Twitter.

But if there's any indication that he's serious about his 100 per cent Twitter takeover bid, it's the fact that he announced it through a filing with the SEC, and not in a tweet.

Updated: April 16, 2022, 5:05 AM