Elon Musk says Twitter is roughly breaking even as advertisers return

The microblogging site will become cash-flow positive in the coming quarters

Twitter's billionaire owner Elon Musk said he is still looking for a chief executive to run the company. AP
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Twitter is roughly breaking even, as most of the company’s advertisers have come back, and is expected to become cash-flow positive in the coming quarters, its billionaire owner Elon Musk has said.

“Depending on how things go, if current trends continue, I think we could be profitable, or to be more precise, we could be cash-flow positive … this quarter if things keep going well,” Mr Musk said during an interview with the BBC on Twitter Spaces.

In terms of advertisers, “almost all of them appear to have come back or say they're gonna come back”, he said.

“There are very few exceptions”, Mr Musk said, without naming the organisation that have not resumed advertising on the microblogging site.

Mr Musk acquired Twitter after a long battle with the company’s management and its board, who sued him for walking out on the deal.

The technology magnate said he eventually took over the company because he had to and running Twitter was at times “quite painful” and a “roller-coaster”.

However, advertisers such as Volkswagen, General Motors, Coca-Cola and Unilever stopped spending their marketing dollars on the platform amid concerns about Mr Musk's handling of the company, mass firings and the spread of hate speech.

Twitter's revenue and adjusted earnings plunged by 40 per cent on an annual basis in December as advertisers withdrew after Mr Musk took charge.

The decline was announced in an update to the California-based company's investors, the Wall Street Journal reported in March.

Advertising spending on the social media platform dropped by 71 per cent since the change in ownership, data from research company Standard Media Index shows.

Mr Musk, who bought the microblogging site for $44 billion in October, said there were slightly under 8,000 employees when he took over. The number has come down to about 1,500, and it was “not fun at all” and was “painful” at times to let that many people go, he said.

Asked whether he would be willing to sell Twitter if someone offered him $44 billion, Mr Musk said “no” but later said he could consider it if the buyer was committed to telling the truth.

Mr Musk said that at the time of his takeover of Twitter, the microblogging site was “spending money like it's going out of fashion” and was being run “really like a non-profit” company.

Mr Musk has previously claimed that the company was losing $4 million a day and laid out plans to boost the platform's revenue by five times to $26.4 billion by 2028.

In November, he raised the possibility of the company going bankrupt.

In Twitter's last financial report before its acquisition, the company swung to a net loss of more than $270 million in the second quarter of 2022, compared with a net income of about $65.6 million in the same period a year earlier.

Mr Musk, who is looking for a new chief executive, jokingly said “I'm not the CEO of Twitter. My dog is the CEO”.

“He’s got a black turtleneck, what more do you need,” he said when pushed for details on his potential successor.

During the interview, which was joined by more than three million Twitter users, according to Reuters, Mr Musk discussed his biggest regrets in his running of the company, hate speech, his “trashing” by the media and the monitoring of truth on the platform. However, he declined to discuss his net worth, when asked how rich he was.

Mr Musk, who is known for controversial tweets said “have I shot myself in the foot with tweets multiple times? Yes.”

“I think I should not tweet after 3am,” he said.

In apparent move to tap into new revenue streams, Twitter in February said that it would charge its users to use two-factor authentication (2FA) to secure their accounts via text message.

“Only Twitter Blue subscribers will be able to use text messages as their two-factor authentication method,” the company tweeted at the time.

Mr Musk said on Wednesday that the legacy verified blue ticks on the platform would be gone by next week.

Any social media company that has not paid-for verification will probably incur issues with things such as AI, he added.

Mr Musk also opposed a potential move by the US to ban Chinese social media app TikTok, despite the fact that it may help Twitter, and said he would take a realistic perspective if a ban were to come through.

“I'm generally against banning things. I mean, it would help Twitter, I suppose, if TikTok was banned because then people would spend more time on Twitter and less on TikTok,” he said.

“But even though that would help Twitter, I would be generally against banning of things.”

On Tuesday, Mr Musk merged Twitter with one of his companies called X Corp. Although Twitter will still functional as a social media platform, this could be the entrepreneur's first step towards transforming the company into an “everything app” similar to China’s WeChat.

In the past, Mr Musk has indicated that acquiring Twitter would be an “accelerant” for creating X Corp, which he called an “everything app”. He said he intended to make X Corp similar to WeChat.

First released in 2011, WeChat is a super-app owned by Shenzhen-based technology company Tencent Holdings. It is an instant messaging and payments app that is used by more than a billion people.

Mr Musk, tweeted about the move on Tuesday with the single character “X”. His one-letter tweet had more than 22.5 million views within hours.

When asked on Wednesday about the move to merge Twitter with X and what it means for the future of the company, Mr Musk said people would have to “stay tuned” to know more.

Updated: April 12, 2023, 12:27 PM