Elon Musk says bots are a problem for Twitter deal, not China

Elon Musk cautioned there are a number of issues to iron out before he can complete his $ 44 billion takeover of Twitter, including bots on the social media platform and completing the deal for financing.

The proportion of fake, spam and bot accounts on the service is “still a very significant issue,” Musk said in an interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait at the Qatar Economic Forum in Doha. “And of course there is the question of will the debt portion of the round come together, and then the shareholders will vote in favor.”

Musk, after cutting a deal to acquire Twitter for $ 54.20 per share in April, has repeatedly questioned its disclosures about fake accounts, fueling speculation that it wants to cut the price of the deal or walk away completely. His lawyer has said Twitter must cooperate by providing the data requested so that Musk can secure a debt financing necessary to consummate the deal.

Banks have committed to provide $ 13 billion of debt financing to Musk’s acquisition. The lenders include Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc.

The 50-year-old entrepreneur did make clear during the forum thinking about how to improve the service. He said he would take responsibility for “driving the product” on Twitter, as he does at Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., though he doesn’t necessarily plan to be the chief executive officer.

“Ideally, I’d like to get like 80% of North America and maybe, I don’t know, half the world or something eventually on Twitter in one form or another,” he said. “And that means it must be something that is appealing to people. It obviously can’t be a place where they feel uncomfortable or harassed or they simply won’t use it. “

Musk said he didn’t foresee his business operations in China causing problems if he takes control of Twitter. The Tesla CEO, also the richest person in the world, counts on China as a key production base and growing consumer market for its electric vehicles.

Twitter is officially banned in China, but the country uses it to spread its message overseas – sometimes with the help of its own spam bot armies. Amazon.com Inc. Founder Jeff Bezos alluded to potential conflicts in a tweet shortly after the Twitter takeover announcement, asking “Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”

Striking a less ebullient tone than he does when discussing his Tesla ventures or humanoid robots, Musk declined Tuesday to say the Twitter deal is going through. He has repeatedly raised the bot issue as an unresolved matter, suggesting he is keeping the door open for this deal to fall apart.

Musk said he wanted to put the takeover “on hold” while investigating how many Twitter’s users are real people, and later filed a formal letter with the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he told Twitter executives he could walk away from the deal. If the company didn’t do more to prove the size of its user base. Twitter responded by giving Musk access to its full fire hose of public tweets, though it’s unclear if that data is truly helpful in calculating the number of bots.

In May, Musk dropped plans to partially fund its purchase of Twitter with a margin loan tied to its Tesla stake and the size of the deal’s equity component. While Musk’s agreement to buy Twitter is not subject to any financing conditions, the terms of the transaction require Twitter to provide any reasonable cooperation Musk requests to assist with the financing arrangements.

Qatar’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Qatar Investment Authority and Investment Promotion Agency Qatar is the underwriters of the Qatar Economic Forum, powered by Bloomberg. Media City Qatar is the host organization.

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