Elon Musk has fueled speculation that he may seek to renegotiate his acquisition of Twitter Inc. , saying that a viable deal at a lower price would not be “out of the question.”
Twitter shares fell 8.2 percent at the close of trading in New York. The stock is falling amid speculation that Musk may walk away from the $44 billion acquisition. This concern grew in the past week as Musk questioned publicly disclosed Twitter data about the percentage of fake accounts and spam on its social networking service.
Musk pressed more on that front Monday at a tech conference in Miami, estimating that fake users make up at least 20 percent of all Twitter accounts. That was his minimum estimate of the number of bots on the network, and he rhetorically asked him if he could reach 90%, according to an on-air video of his comments posted by a Twitter user.
“What I’ve been told right now is that there’s no way to know how many bots there are,” Musk said at the conference. “It’s like, unknown as the human soul.”
Twitter declined to comment. The San Francisco-based company reports quarterly that spam accounts make up less than 5 percent of total users.
Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc. And SpaceX, last week said its attempt to buy Twitter was “temporarily suspended” pending details about the number of fake and spam accounts on the platform. Over the weekend, he tweeted that he planned to conduct his own analysis of the Twitter user base using a random sample of 100 user accounts. Soon after, Musk claimed that Twitter’s legal team called to complain that he had violated a non-disclosure agreement by publicly sharing the company’s methodology.
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal disputed this on Monday in a series of tweets that provided more details about the company’s approach to dealing with spam accounts. Agrawal said that Twitter manually checks thousands of accounts every three months to determine how many should be considered spam, but added that the process could not be performed externally due to user privacy concerns.
Agrawal said Twitter “shared an overview of the assessment process with Elon a week ago.” Musk responded to the CEO’s thread of tweets by first asking why Twitter didn’t contact users to verify their identity — and then by posting a poo emoji.
Musk spoke at a conference hosted by the podcast “All-In” moderated by Chamath Palihapitiya, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks and David Friedberg. The event, valued at $7,500 per person, was sold out, and organizers said journalists were excluded from attendance. Musk appeared at the Miami Summit via video conferencing.
The 50-year-old billionaire began buying Twitter shares in January and revealed a 9.2 percent stake in the company on April 4. Twitter’s board of directors approved Musk’s $44 billion offer to buy the company and make it private on April 25, but the deal is months away from closing, and Twitter shares are trading well below the offer price.
The spread between Musk’s bid of $54.20 per share and Twitter’s share price continues to widen, wiping out all the gains the stock has made since Elon Musk disclosed his stake in the social media platform.